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Why staying together ‘for the kids’ could cause more harm than good

A recent poll of young people with experience of parental separation or divorce reveals that eight out of 10 of them would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy, rather than stay together.

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The research was carried out by ComRes on behalf of family law organisation Resolution and comes ahead of a Parliamentary launch of new advice for parents going through divorce.

One of the young people had the following advice for divorcing parents: “Don’t stay together for a child’s sake, better to divorce than stay together for another few years and divorce on bad terms.”

Another offered reassurance that while kids of divorcing parents are likely to be very upset at the time they will often realise later on that it was the best decision.

Another issue for the young people was the extent to which they were involved in the decision-making during the divorce process.

Of the 14–22-year-olds polled, 62 percent disagreed with the statement that their parents made sure they were part of the decision-making process and 50 percent of them said they did not have any say as to which parent they would live with or where they would live.

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An overwhelming majority of the young people (88 percent) stressed the importance of making sure children don’t feel as if they have to choose between their parents.

“This new information shows that, despite the common myth that it’s better to stay together ‘for the sake of the kids’, most children would sooner have their parents divorce rather than remain in an unhappy relationship,” said Jo Edwards, chair of Resolution. “Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future are what’s most damaging for children, not the fact of divorce itself. This means it is essential that parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and take appropriate action to communicate with their children throughout this process, and make them feel involved in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.”

“Parents can involve their children by providing age appropriate and relevant information about the divorce or separation and what it means for them,” advised Relate counsellor Denise Knowles. “Trying to understand children’s needs will make them feel secure and loved during this difficult time. Separating parents could also consider accessing support such as individual counselling, couples counselling, family counselling and mediation.”

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