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Parenting after separation

Parenting after separation – the news isn’t all bad!

The world of separation and divorce tends to be dominated by horror stories about the impact of separation on children.

It’s true that children generally never want their parents to divorce and feel very sad when it happens. It’s also true that there are a lot of risk factors for children after their parents separate, but that is not the whole story.

Most statistics we hear about are taken from families who are already in the family law system and so the findings may already be skewed, yet one third of families who separate do not even use a family relationship service during or after separation, and only a little more that 50% significantly use those services. What would they say about their children’s well-being after separation?

The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently conducted a more balanced longitudinal study of separated families involving over 9000 families who were contacted through the child support system. Their findings from the third wave of study in 2012, when families had been separated for 5 -7 years, are surprisingly positive:

“On the whole, the findings….provide a positive picture of how well most children in the LSSF study are faring. This is heartening, given longstanding concerns about the effects of separation on children”.

In terms of child well-being, parents reported that their children were progressing as well as, or better than other children of the same age. Areas examined included general health, learning, peer relationships, general developmental progress, including socio-emotional development. 90% of mothers and fathers believed that their children were happy all or most of the time. Even if you take into account that most parents tend to underestimate their children’s difficulties, that’s a pretty amazing statistic!

Other interesting findings from the study were that there was no particular relationship between care arrangements and child well-being. The two most important factors that did impact on child well-being were in fact safety and the quality of the inter-parental relationship. Those families who reported low safety concerns and a positive inter-parental relationship also reported consistently high child well-being across all three waves.

So what are parents doing who are getting it right? How come their children are thriving?

If you would like to hear more, and if you would like to think about how you too can take your children on a journey to a positive outcome, come along to Rebecca Burnett-Smith’s FREE workshop on “Parenting after separation – creating a road map for success”

Rebecca is an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner with her own family mediation practice, Kids First Mediation. She also brings to her work over 25 years of social work experience, working therapeutically with children and families from all backgrounds and complexity.

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