Reprinted from the Northern Natal Courier, by Sarah Wyatt-Minter – 2020-08-31
The hard lockdown forced many families to spend time together but instead of bringing families together, some families started falling apart, with many couples admitting that their union was no longer viable. South Africa has seen an increase of 20 per cent in the divorce rate since the start of the lockdown on March 27. Divorce is by far one of the hardest decisions to confront because not only does it affect you but weighs heavily on the children. You have to consider and prioritise their well being as well. The pain of divorce is staggering and the decision never less than life-altering.
Telling your children
As a parent how do you break such devastating news to your children? It is a huge conundrum and headache but it has to done. Prioritise them and make sure they hear it from you and not outsiders. Although it might seem easier to break the news in public, because of an audience might make them behave calmly, this is not a good idea. You need to do it in a familiar and a warm assuring space considering that this will go down in their memories as the most traumatic, humiliating experience they ever have to deal with.
Assure them it’s not their fault
Children tend to feel that divorce is their fault and depending on their age they may want to know why mommy and daddy are going separate ways. For a younger child, it is a better idea to tell them that “mommy and daddy are no longer together.” An older child may want to know more about the reasons why and it may be challenging to break it down for them. Avoid the blame game at this point and the gory details around your split. Even if your children want all the dirt, that is not his or her right. Be polite and modify your answers to favour discretion and forgiveness and avoid accusations. Be ready to provide answers about who will live where, how often they will see the non-resident parent, whether they will have to move too; whether they will lose their friends, their school. All these are fair questions. Lying to buffer the blow is inappropriate.
Help your children cope
After breaking such horrible news, your children will react. This is all life-changing. They might want to retreat to their bedroom to cry or request to go spend a night, or a weekend, with a friend or a relative. Be prepared to help arrange this. You cannot blame the child for wanting to escape the harsh reality that awaits. Respect your child’s right to fury and pain. It is your responsibility to help them through the change.
Love your child and commit to being there
This is the most difficult time that you will face and the best you can do is to be present, love your children and commit, in your heart and aloud, to remaining an engaged, connected and dedicated parent. Your children are losing everything they once thought firm and secure. This is a good time to nurture your relationship your children as you navigate this transition together. It’s not easy period but you will go through it together and before you know it, you will adjust to your new normal.
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If you need help
Whatever these unprecedented circumstances invoke in you, we are family lawyers who are here to help. If you decide divorce is the best thing for your family, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email email@example.com.