Tatler Experts' Corner: My parents divorced when I was 10 and it was awful. Now my partner and I are separating, how can we manage it without harming our children?

Ilya Burdun

As part of the Tatler SOS Experts’ Corner, we delve into the subject of legal arrangements surrounding relationships. Here, Adèle Ballantyne from Eleda Consultancy shares her advice on managing a peaceful divorce without causing harm to your children.

When we have, as children, witnessed our parent’s painful relationship breakdown, it often leaves deep emotional scars that can impact on our own adult relationships.

If we then find ourselves in a situation where our own relationship has irrevocably broken down, fear for our children’s future happiness is kindled. We may find ourselves trying hard to ensure that they don’t have to experience what we went through.

As we begin the process of relationship breakdown, there is often a plethora of advice from family, friends and eventually legal professionals and certainly in the past the emphasis has been on ‘the fight’; who gets what?

Often it is the children, who as parents we want to protect, that inadvertently suffer and end up in the middle of that fight.

With the imminent advent of ‘No Fault’ divorce and the media coverage of celebrities who have chosen a kinder way to go their separate ways (think Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele), the narrative around how we separate is changing.

So, just how do we separate without causing emotional harm to our children?

INFORMATION, EDUCATION, TRAINING and SUPPORT are the four key elements to getting it right for you and your children.

When you get together as a couple, you never imagine that you will end up separating and so if it happens you find yourself in new territory. It can be so hard to know whether what you are doing is right.

Firstly, there is no hard and fast rule as to how you disconnect, every couple is unique and how you uncouple is entirely up to you.

Like most major decisions in life, we rarely make them without getting INFORMATION. So, get as much as you can from professionals who understand the process and who have much experience working with separating couples. The more information you have means you have more choices.

When we embark upon something new albeit an evening class or a job, generally we need EDUCATION to help us succeed. There are many professionals out there who can provide much needed understanding for newly separating parents. Somewhere, out there is the right professional for you. Someone who will help you to understand, not only the dynamics of relationship breakdown, but can provide you with coping strategies to get you through what might possibly be one of the most important changes in yours and the lives of your children.

Every day we hear about individuals who jump out of their comfort zone and take on a life changing challenge, maybe competing in a triathlon or navigating their way to Mount Everest base camp. Separating is one of the biggest challenges to happen in the life of a couple.

Whether you are taking on a personal challenge or separating it is essential that you get some TRAINING. There are many workshops (group or one to one) and independent professionals who can give you the training you need to help you to achieve the optimal outcome for you and your family. Because believe it or not, when you separate and if have children, you are still a family.

Creating a network of SUPPORT is essential when going through separation. It is crucial to ensure that you get support that is helpful and constructive. Even though sometimes all we want to hear is how awful our soon to be ex-partner is, having the right team around you will, in the long run, get you through with positive outcomes for you and especially your children.

As a Relationship Therapist and director of Eleda Consultancy, I know only too well what can happen when parents don’t get the best help during their separation. The effects on you as an individual and particularly on your children can be devastating.

Research tells us that it is not separation of parents that causes emotional harm to children. It is the on-going parental conflict and being unable to freely see and have a relationship with both parents, when safe to do so. That causes the harm.

Painful separations full of conflict can impact on your future relationships too. Here at Sanctum, working with experienced divorce and separation professionals such as Adele Ballantyne, Relationship Therapist and Marcie Shaoul, Co-Parenting coach, in an intensive, combined approach, can really help at any point within the separation process.

The responsibilities that come with parenthood do not end if you separate, they are with you for life. Your children will always need input from both of you.

Relationship breakdown involves two journeys; the ending of an adult-to-adult intimate connection and the creation of an ongoing (because they will always be your children) co-parenting relationship.

However you feel about each other, try to get it right for your children, right from the beginning.

For more gold-standard guidance on separation visit the Tatler High Net Worth Address Book