Being Realistic and United is Key in Divorce

Divorce is never something you enter into a marriage thinking about, but in some situations it's the only answer. Here's some advice for working parents on how to address the issue with children while keeping the impact on professional lives to a minimum.

Be Realistic - It's Happening

The biggest piece of advice I can give divorcing parents is don't pretend it isn't happening. The demise of your relationship is a big deal - you may have thought this person was "the one" and that this relationship was for life; you may have seen them as your soul mate.

The temptation to put your head in the sand and pretend it isn't happening because there's a critical meeting at work, a report to write or a promotion on the cards - may be tempting. But the end of your relationship requires your attention, so make sure you carve out time to manage your divorce well. Investing time at the front end will ensure your wellbeing throughout the process and save you time in the long term.

Staying on Track

The ending of a relationship is multi-faceted. How will you go forward as parents? How will you navigate the emotional, legal and financial terrain?

Being disciplined in your conversations is important. Be clear about which area you are discussing and stay with the subject. If feelings start to sway you into other areas, take a break and schedule another meeting.

If you find it impossible to stay on topic, inviting a third party to facilitate your conversation can make a difference. This could be a respected friend or family member or one of the many mediation services now available.

Parenting as Partners

Ideally, your relationship, as parents, will not end. This may seem abhorrent to you initially, but research shows that divorce does not need to have a negative impact on your children, if it is handled well. Remember that you are the adults and need to behave like adults when it comes to making decisions about your children's needs. However difficult this is, it's crucial.

Your children need to be free to continue to love, see and enjoy time with you both. For this to be possible, you need to continue to parent as partners, sharing mutual responsibility for respecting each other in front of your children, agreeing how their time will be carved up between you and reassuring them that the demise of your marriage is not their fault.

Some couples feel the foundation is laid for this by telling the children the marriage is ending together. This can work well, provided that the two of you are on the same page regarding the way forward at this time and will be able to answer any questions they have in agreement.

You may not have all the answers yet but provided your principles are aligned, for example, "We both love you, you will still see us both regularly, we will still come to your parents evening at school" etc., this will be comforting enough. Children can tolerate some uncertainty at the front end about the specifics, like exactly where you will all be living day to day, if they know these pieces are in place.

When it Calls for Counselling

If the decision to divorce is not mutual, and there are negative emotions flying around, it is wise to seek professional help. Counselling can make a difference when the ending is unwanted. Equally, if you are the initiating partner, counselling can help with any feelings of guilt or shame tied in with being the 'baddie'.

Using Work As an Excuse

Work can offer sanctuary from the trauma of your marriage ending. It allows you the opportunity to put your personal difficulties on the back burner while you devote your attention to the job in hand.

It can be useful to let your line-manager know what is going on at home so that they can be supportive if you need time off at short notice, or your performance is not as good as usual. However, be mindful that you don't use work as an excuse to avoid making time for the difficult conversations you need to have with your soon-to-be ex-partner.

Clare Prendergast, Counsellor, Relate