What Families Can Do 2019 Rev 8


What Families Can Do

a guide for separated parents and families



About Us

Telling Your Children

What Parents Can Do

What Children Can Do

What Grandparents Can Do

About Us

AVENUE is the leading provider of Mediation, Counselling

and Child Contact in Northeast Scotland. We work

with everyone from children to grandparents and can support

you and your family through times of change, difficulties and


When you have separated from your partner, it can seem

impossible to make joint decisions for your children. This is

a particularly emotional time for all the family, so it’s often

difficult to see the wood for the trees. Our Family Mediators

are experts in listening and won’t judge you, whatever your


Our skills lie in asking the right questions at the right time to

reveal options you may not have considered and to help you

all get to where you want to go. Our work is based on sound

knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and we can help

you find the best approach. We will listen objectively and

help you to identify the changes needed to help you move




Telling Your Children

Telling your children you are separating can be extremely

upsetting for everyone. If you can do it with confidence and

without blame, reassuring them of your continued love, you’ll

be doing this difficult task well.

Children often feel worried and insecure if things are not

explained and parents can be anxious about their reaction.

The best approach will depend on the age and emotional

maturity of your children, how you’re getting on with their

other parent, and the circumstances leading up to the


Some Guiding Principles




Prepare yourself first by considering what to tell them.

They don’t need too many details; your perspective can

put their other parent in a bad light and your children may

feel stuck in the middle

Agree on what you’re going to tell the children; doing

it together helps them understand they still have the

love and support of both parents. If you’d rather do it

separately, that’s ok but try to tell them the same things

Rehearse what you are going to say. Children don’t

want to hear too many adult details but some kind of

explanation is important. Don’t blame each other in front

of the children





Try to work out how, when and where the children are

going to see both parents so they can start to envisage

what it’s going to be like

Tears and other displays of emotion are to be expected,

children need permission to grieve. Crying, anger, apathy

and denial are all normal reactions

Try to have some time together before either of you leave

the family home. This gives time for questions, feelings to

be expressed and reassurances given

If one parent leaves suddenly, try to give an explanation

that reassures the children and isn’t critical of the other




Whatever your circumstances, the children need to know

what is happening and how their parent’s separation will

affect their lives.

Some Lines To Practice


So you will probably have noticed that Mum and Dad

haven’t been getting on very well for quite some time so

we have decided to separate







Mum and Dad can’t find a way to be happy together.

We’ve tried to solve our differences, but very sadly we’ve

decided we can’t live together anymore

Sometimes we’ll all be sad and angry this had to happen,

but Mum and Dad have thought about this for a long time

and think this is the best thing to do

We will still be a family but it’ll be a different kind of family

Mum and Dad may disagree on things, but we both love

you and always will

It’s not your fault. Nothing you could have done could

have prevented our decision

We’ll all be a bit unsettled for a while as we get used to

things but it will get easier





we will both always love you

Good things may come out of this, like being able to spend

more time together once we reorganise ourselves

I didn’t want this to happen, but if Mum and Dad can’t

be happy together, staying together isn’t going to work,

however much I might want it

It is me who wants to separate and I know that makes

it hard for all of us. I’m so sorry this has happened but

please remember, I’m not leaving you

Mum and Dad sometimes see things differently; it’s not

that one of us is right and the other is wrong



What Parents Can Do

helping children cope

Children need to know they still have two parents who love

them and are able to look after them. They want to be

listened to and feel safe to express their emotions.

They should be kept out of parental conflict and allowed to

love all the people who are important two them:






Tell the children what is happening. Coping with change

is better than uncertainty and being open allows your

children to trust you

Listen to what worries the children; their worries will be

different from yours

Ensure the children get as much attention as they did

before. You will have practical concerns such as money

and housing so, if possible, ask someone else for help

Be consistent in your arrangements; children need to be

able to trust what you promise. Try to be flexible as rigid

arrangements become a duty not a pleasure

Remember that the children have and want both parents.

All parents have good and bad features, and the parent

who insults the other can be discredited in the eyes of

the children





Allow your children to express their views. It doesn’t

mean giving them the responsibility for major decisions,

it means taking their wants and needs into account

Tell the school as teachers can provide support and

comfort when parents may be engrossed in their own

affairs. Difficulties may be noticed earlier if teachers are

aware of the situation

Support your children in their relationship with the other

parent, step parents or new partners. You are responsible

for making their life easier

Find a way to communicate with the other parent about

arrangements. Your children should not be responsible

for carrying messages

8 9

What Children Fear

Children are very intuitive and pick up on tension in their

environment. They need both parents to communicate and

help them to manage their fears.



Children are frightened by conflict; they may feel you are

unable to keep them safe

Relying on the court shows your children you are unable

to work together



If you make children feel bad about their other parent,

they will feel bad about themselves and they may end up

feeling bad about you

Children suffer if the parental rift means they lose

relationships that are important to them

What to Avoid



Expressing your grievances to your children; they will

become confused and uncertain by adult issues they

don’t understand

Succumbing to emotional blackmail from the children; if

you can’t afford something, say so and stick to it. Children

feel safer with established limits




children are afraid of conflict

Using the children as a focus for quarrels; continued

conflict can be harmful

Enlisting the children as allies in your fight against the

other parent. They need two parents and don’t want to

hear negative opinions about the other

Children don’t need to know everything about their

parent’s separation. What happened and who’s to blame

is not their concern. Children should be allowed to be

children, and not be burdened by adult issues.

10 11

What Children Can Do

a guide for young people

Family separation is a tough time for everyone, working

together can help make things easier. Everyone has a part

to play, school may be your most important responsibility or

your after school activities, music, sports, friends, part time

job or the family pet.


Think about your schedule; know what needs to happen

and when




Share your schedule; agree with your parents what they

will do and what you will take care of. You could make a


Uniforms or sports kit; be clear in advance what you need

Cash; how much and when: school trips, sports fees,

equipment and so on

As this is a time of change, maybe there are things you can

do to help out. Almost any job that’s done with good will and

enthusiasm will be appreciated, whether you are at Mum’s

house or Dad’s.

f f take on a new job around the house, watering the plants

or mowing the lawn. Be proud of what you can do and

don’t worry about what you can’t




if you are doing home economics at school, you could

plan and prepare a family meal once a week

you might even get better packed lunches if you offer to

make them yourself

help save our planet by organising the recycling

Be realistic and only offer to do what you can

manage and what you feel confident doing

It’s not your responsibility to solve everyone’s problems, but

getting stuck into a worthwhile job can help take your mind

off things.

12 13

As this is a time of upheaval for all of you, it can be hard for

parents to figure out what you need. However, your parents

love you, so ask for their help.




Be as clear and specific as you can, general moaning is

not unreasonable, but may not achieve what you want.

If you can say ‘It would be good if….’ rather than ‘I hate it

when….’ others are more likely to listen.

Understand that all your family are going through changes

and may be dealing with very difficult feelings. Share your

feelings and try to give them room to deal with theirs.

Avoid getting caught up in arguments between your

parents. Don’t take sides, even if you are tempted; it isn’t

good for you or them.



Be clear that you don’t want to be a messenger; it’s not

your job. Your responsibility isn’t to make arrangements,

but to help make the arrangements work.

Your family may be facing money worries, so producing

an exhaustive wish list may not be the best plan.

Families who don’t live together find a way to move on and

be happy but it can take time

You may feel sad about your old family but hurt and angry

feelings do get mended.

Try to be hopeful and positive about the future, it has

endless possibilities.



What Grandparents Can Do

helping families cope

When parents separate it can affect all of the family but

grandparents can be a tremendous source of stability and

support for the children.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the middle of your family’s

problems, but try to remain neutral and maintain your

relationship with the children.

Help parents to see that, however angry they are with each

other, conflict is frightening for a child of any age and the

children need them both.

What Children Need






To know they still have a family who love them and will

look after them

To be listened to

To be allowed to be sad for what they have lost

To be kept out of their parents conflict

To be allowed to love all the people who are important

to them

grandparents can offer tremendous stability

Listen to the Children

Encourage them to talk about the situation as they see it.

Their worries and fears may be very different from yours and

they need someone to understand what it’s like for them.

They may need to grieve for the family they had and express

their sadness or anger. It is more important that they feel able

to talk to you, not that you should have all the right answers.

Don’t Take Sides

Your role should be focused on the children. Always be

positive about both parents as children need them both and

don’t want to hear bad things about either. Children often

blame themselves for their parents separation and feel

confused about loyalty; avoid name calling and taking sides.

You can help to minimise any potential damage by ensuring

they don’t become an audience for conflict and complaints.

16 17

Stay in Touch

They need to know that you are thinking about them,

wherever you live. It’s important that parents understand

that you see yourself as a support for the children and they

need regular contact with you.


Parenting Apart

call us


Find creative ways to keep in touch; Skype or other live

messaging can be fun, especially if using a webcam. Sharing

photos and news can be done through social media sites and

children also love receiving cards and letters.

You Do Have Rights

If pursuing your rights causes conflict between you and

either parent, it’s unlikely to produce the results you

want. You may have to compromise greatly in order to

keep in contact with the children. If you consider legal

action, it’s important to be realistic about the likelihood

of change. It could be more beneficial to emphasise that

your main goal is to be there for your grandchildren.

Communication and Compromise

Helping your family to do this has never been so important.

Use your wisdom and experience to help everyone avoid

criticism and blame. Family separation is difficult for everyone

and, even though you are hurting, your grandchildren will

always appreciate your love and support.

We know how difficult family breakdown and living in

separate homes can be. Parenting apart is challenging

but our free Parenting Apart sessions can help you to:

Understand what you and your children

are going through

Help your children cope

Plan for the future

You and your ex-partner attend different sessions so you

are able to address the things that are important to you.

Parenting Apart helps you to look to the future with

confidence and hope.

01224 587571


18 19

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relationship counselling

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separation counselling

cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

anger management

psychosexual therapy

sex addiction

family mediation

parenting apart

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consulting children

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advice and information

member of Relationships Scotland


01224 587571 ▪ aberdeen@avenue-info.com

01779 490790 ▪ peterhead@avenue-info.com

01343 540801 ▪ elgin@avenue-info.com

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