A survey by parenting website Netmums has revealed that many parents do not realise how much their divorce is affecting their children. Adults and children were polled separately, and the results reveal significant gaps between their outlooks on the situation.
For example, 13% of children blamed themselves for the break-up. But less than half of their parents – 5% of the total number surveyed – seemed to have noticed that the children thought this.
Children were also three times more likely to have witnessed fights between their parents than the adults thought. Less than 20% of children were happy that their parents had separated, and a third said that they were “devastated” by the divorce. In spite of this, 80% of parents were under the impression their children had “coped well.” Only a third of children agreed with this idea.
One in every twelve children surveyed said that they believed their parents had let them down or did not love them.
Many children admitted to hiding their true feelings from their parents. This emphasises the importance of understanding that even if a child appears to be doing well, they may still be struggling to cope.
Perhaps some of the most worrying figures relate to the self-destructive actions that some children have used to try and cope with their emotional turmoil.
Roughly 20% of children admitted to self-harming. A further 6% had gone so far as to consider suicide. A third of these – 2% of the total number surveyed – had attempted to kill themselves but had fortunately been stopped or saved.
A surprisingly high number of children had turned to drink to try and lessen the pain of the experience. Around 20% of the children surveyed had experimented with drink. A small number had also experimented with drugs as a result of the experience.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the above information, the relationship children have with their parents can also suffer as a result of divorce. Sometimes, the actions of parents can play a role in this. Over a third of children surveyed said that they had experienced one parent attempting to turn them against the other.
Some children also spoke of having to “look after” a parent following a divorce.
Furthermore, nearly a quarter of children say that they no longer see their father. Only one tenth of this number said the same about their mother.
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard had much to say about the results of the survey. She said that “Divorce may be a little word but it has a huge effect.”
Freegard when on to point out that an estimated third of children will experience a family break-up by the age of 16. She suggested that this research shows that more should be done to support children during this process.
Freegard summarised: “To flourish, children need security and while we will never see a society free from break ups, we should be investing more time, more care and more money into making sure our youngsters have all the support they need to get through this difficult time.”
This article was written by DivorceSolicitorsReading, family law experts specialising in divorce, family mediation, child law and prenuptial agreements.