What About the Children? How To Help Children Survive Separation and Divorce
Julie Lynn Evans is a psychotherapist who works with children. She wrote the book after watching from her professional capacity how ‘broken’ families become and how children in particular become the main casualties in an increasingly unstable climate for family relationships.
The book is divided into chapters defining the importance of communication, the roles of the key players, how the separation may affect children depending on age, symptoms of loss, the aftermath of loss and some suggested remedies.
The first chapters explain how important it is to be clear and honest to the children about what is happening. Even though parents may not wish to be together, they still have responsibility for the emotional and healthy well-being of their offspring. There is more to a relationship than falling in and out of love.
Julie explains how damaging separation or divorce can be to the adults, so therefore how much more brutal it must be for their children. She advises making good use of friends, extended family, the community and possibly the helping services if things go completely out of control. It is very difficult to try to appear normal when your world as you knew it is crumbling.
Children have varying reactions to the separation of their parents. Sometimes it depends on how much they have been kept informed and sometimes it just depends on their individual character. There is mileage to be gained from expecting and inviting reaction even where it might be violent in its appearance. Provided the child or young person understands the parameters to their outburst, letting off steam is a vital aspect of healing.
Symptoms listed are typical of any child’s reaction to an upsetting situation where they have no control – bedwetting, withdrawal, anger, tearfulness. There may also be behavioural signs that they are not coping as well as imagined, which can range from tantrums to self-harm. Most children of separating parents feel a degree of guilt that in some way they are to blame.
The book looks at some case studies to help parents select the right path through the minefield of separation. It is essential that they remain in close communication through it all and they remain consistent and supportive of each other so far as is possible.
This is a positive book. It offers hope to parents dealing with this sort of situation and by pointing out some of the pitfalls it may alleviate some of the stress and guilt that the majority of caring parents feel. It is a good general text book to have on the shelf for parents, students and older children.
Evans, Julie Lynn (2009)
Bantam Press, Ealing, London