THE BLOG

The Season for Counselling or the Divorce Lawyers

06/01/2014 11:43 GMT | Updated 06/03/2014 10:59 GMT

It's this time of the year, soon after the Christmas and New Year holidays, that couples' therapists and divorce lawyers find their telephones ringing more incessantly than during the rest of the year.

It's not that the failure or breakdown in the relationship is new; it's just that the run-up to Christmas is not exactly a good time to break up. But then, thinking realistically about it, there isn't actually a good time for this sort of thing.

Couples either want to come for counselling to help fix their relationship which has needed mending for some time, or otherwise they are heading for the family lawyers' offices to draw up the divorce papers.

Both options are daunting and certainly far from pleasant. While it takes courage and commitment to undertake regular weekly counselling sessions when all sorts of things can be brought to the forefront, going for a divorce or separation is a painful prospect for all concerned - particularly when there are children involved.

But the question that remains difficult for warring couples to answer is do they stay together for the sake of their children and pretend that all is OK between them; or do they go for broke, and make the decision that they, as individuals, and their children will be better off without having to endure the daily incidents of watching their parents behave like teenagers throwing plates across the table and watching tempers fly.

In light of all of this, I was interested to read the findings of a Netmums survey which says that parents often underestimate the impact of their divorce on their offspring.

Over three quarters said they thought the children "coped well", yet a mere 18 per of children said they were happy with the situation. This doesn't come as any surprise to me, as most children, if asked, would prefer it to have their mummies and daddies stay together.

Quite astonishing was that some parents, when it came to telling their children that they were splitting up, found this really difficult to do. Instead they resorted to telling their children of their divorce by text message.

Perhaps when parents get divorce they focus on themselves too much rather than their children: one in five of the children in the survey felt there was no point confiding in either their mother or father because they were "too wrapped up in themselves".

The survey polled about 1,000 divorced parents and 100 children aged eight to 18 from broken homes.

All in all, this is a bleak picture of the struggles that children are faced with when having to cope with their parents' break-up.

Almost a third described themselves as devastated by divorce, while one in 12 thought that it meant their mothers and fathers "didn't love them" and had "let them down".

But despite the damage wrought by their parents splitting, few children felt able to speak openly and honestly about their emotions.

Nearly 40 per cent said they hid their feelings from their parents because they did not want to upset them.

In addition, often children feel the need to "look after" their mother or father as they watched their parents' marriage fall apart - and 35 per cent claimed that one parent had tried to turn them against the other.

The survey found the most common way to break the news about the divorce was for mothers to tell their children face-to-face. However, some London divorce lawyers have told me from their experiences, often the children know what's going on between the parents and when they finally break the news to them, and it comes as little surprise.

But 13 per cent of youngsters had heard the revelation during a row and one per cent had been told about it by text.

Both the parents and children polled wanted better support during the separation, such as counselling and the opportunity to talk to someone outside the family.

Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard called for parents to talk more to their children about their feelings.

'Divorce may be a little word but it has a huge effect,' she said. 'It's estimated that one in three children see their parents separate before the age of 16.

'While experts acknowledge it is better to come from a broken family than live in one, this research shows not enough is being done to support youngsters through the break-up process."