Looking after kids' wellbeing beyond divorce and re-partnering

Most of us are aware of the importance of looking after our kids' wellbeing as we navigate our way through the difficult terrain of separation, divorce, and starting a new relationship with someone who may also bring children with them from a previous relationship. We work hard at maintaining an amicable relationship with our ex (at least around co-parenting), ensuring that we support our child's ongoing relationship with their other parent, keeping our own feelings about our ex separate and private from our children, not burdening our children with the task of being the message-bearer between ourselves and our ex, supporting them to develop their own relationship slowly and in their own time with new family members etc etc.

All of these things are very important! It's great when we can take satisfaction in watching our children flourish because we have successfully provided the environment when they can do OK even where we have had to navigate this emotionally complex and difficult territory.

We can be quite unprepared, therefore, for our children to become upset years later, about issues we thought we had managed well and moved beyond. 

Why does this happen? The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but are some common reasons about why kids may suddenly manage less well with the fact you and their other parent aren't together, or with their relationship with your or your ex's new partner or children, even where things seemed to be just fine before.

* you and your new partner (or your ex and their new partner) go through a rocky patch, bringing up fears for your child that they may go through another disruption in their world and relationships.

* your family is going through a stressful time that reminds your child of how it felt going through your divorce and starting over.

* your child reaches a new stage of development where their ability to think and understand in a more sophisticated way means they revisit what has happened and need to make a new sense of it, as well as to process the emotions that this new understanding evokes.

It can be tempting to tell your child that s/he 'should be over it by now', to focus on managing their behavioural responses to their emotional distress rather than addressing their deeper fears, or giving them a space to process their grief about what has happened. 

Counselling may be helpful, both for your child and for you as a family. Counselling can give your child a space to process their feelings without having to worry about hurting or upsetting you. Family counselling can assist you to support and understand what has been evoked for your child, so you can respond in a way that is helpful for your child and for your relationship with them.

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