The recent series of Dr Foster may have been criticised for being over the top but it did highlight the impact on children caught in the crossfire between two waring parents.
The characters were so embroiled in their hatred of each other they failed to see the impact of their actions on their son until it was too late and he felt he had no option but to run away.
Sadly, as Solicitors, we see less extreme examples of this on a regular basis.
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 111,169 couples in England and Wales divorced in 2014. Around 42% of marriages end in divorce which affects more than half of all children by the age of 16. The damage which it can cause to children if not dealt with appropriately is lifechanging and far reaching.
Parents sometimes mistakenly think teenage and older children will not be affected by the divorce because they have their own lives, but unfortunately the reverse can be the reality particularly if the divorce is acrimonious.
By that age children are old enough to have understanding of relationships and an acrimonious breakdown can make them question what they have learned throughout their childhood and that perhaps everything they have grown up with has been a sham. It can make them very mistrusting of relationships in the future and it has been shown that children of angrily divorced parents are more likely to divorce themselves.
Relate have indicated through their research that the repercussions can have a knock on effect for 3 generations unless professional help is sought. Children need to know that adults are a safe point of reference and parents must be very careful about how they speak about their ex to their child, given that that child shares their genes with them.
The impact can be far reaching with children growing up to believe that no one will stay with them forever and they may end relationships before they turn sour and not settle down.
Children need to learn that relationships are about love and not control or winning.
Although it is incredibly difficult, it is important not to let the emotions surrounding the adult relationship affect the parental one. They are two entirely separate things and children should be reassured by both parents. Adults must avoid talking about adult issues with the children and should always focus on the child’s feelings.
Dealing with matters collaboratively can show a child that although the relationship has broken down, the adults are being civil with each other and want to deal with matters as constructively as possible.