Children and Parents experiencing separation and divorce

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“As serial partnerships become more common, we need to move on from categorising the children of divorced and separated parents as having an experience which is essentially different from that of other children”. This is one of the conclusions reached by this report that looks at how changes in family circumstances affect children, writes Gaynor Wingham.

In 1998, the green paper Supporting Families saw marriage as the preferred setting for bringing up children, but in the interests of children, parenting in other settings should be “valued and supported”.

The report has a number of conclusions, including the need to see parental separation not as an event but as a process long before the actual departure of one parent and continuing throughout childhood. Experience of family change is seen as difficult for all but particularly for those families where other difficulties such as financial problems already exist.

It recognises the importance of communicating with children and a need to distinguish between keeping children informed of what is happening in their lives, involving them in decision making and providing them with appropriate support.

This report is a useful and practical contribution to thinking about support services to children and families, while also raising important areas for further research and consideration.

Gaynor Wingham is director of the professional independents consultancy.

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