Parents shouldn’t stay together for the sake of their children - say the kids themselves, in a surprising new study.
The recent poll, carried out in South Yorkshire by family law organisation Resolution ahead of the Christmas period, found that eight out of ten children, aged 14-22 and with experience of parental separation or divorce, would prefer their parents to split up if they were unhappy, rather than stay together.
The figures also revealed that divorce is a big issue in Sheffield, with 1084 divorces taking place in Sheffield County Court in 2013.
In recent years, family splits have become so common around the festive period that the first working Monday of January is commonly known, in legal circles, as Divorce Monday. But the study suggests that putting on a brave face for your kids this Christmas isn’t necessarily what’s best for them in the long run.
Sheffield family lawyer and Resolution spokesperson Vanessa Fox said: “An overwhelming majority, 82 per cent, of the young people surveyed said that, despite their feelings at the time, they felt it was ultimately better that their parents had divorced rather than stay together unhappily.
“Asked what advice they would give divorcing parents, one young person said, ‘Don’t stay together for a child’s sake, better to divorce than stay together too long and then end on bad terms’.”
“I know that parents in Sheffield who are going through a divorce will want to put their children first; 1084 local divorces means a lot of local children who might be facing family issues. Divorce is, of course, a very stressful thing to go through – but the best way forward is to manage separation in a way that minimises conflict, focuses on the needs of children and helps separating couples to avoid court”.
Denise Knowles, a counsellor for South Yorkshire’s Relate service, said: “Of course, children usually find their parents’ separation extremely upsetting but, as this research demonstrates, many come to terms with the situation and adjust to changes in family life.
“There are plenty of steps that separating parents can take to ensure they reduce the negative impact on their children. such as working to avoid constant arguing or speaking badly of the other parent in front of the kids.”
The study also revealed that children and young people often want greater involvement in decision-making during the divorce process, with half of the young people polled saying they did not have any say as to where or which parent they would live with.
88 per cent also said it was essential children not be made to feel like they have to choose between their parents.
When asked what they would most like to have changed about their parents’ divorce, 31 per cent said they would have liked their parents not to be horrible about each other to them and 30 per cent said they would have liked their parents to understand how it felt to be in the middle of the process.
On a positive note, 50 per cent said they felt that their parents put their needs first during their separation or divorce process.
Speaking about the new findings, Jo Edwards, chair of Resolution, said: “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 their parents didn’t remain in an unhappy relationship.
“Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future is what’s most damaging for children, not the divorce itself. It is essential parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and involve them in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.
“We should be supporting parents to choose an out of court divorce method, such as mediation or collaborative practice. This will help parents to maintain control over the divorce and ensure their children’s needs are, and remain, the central focus.”