Children and divorce

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries.

Divorced parents and children. PhotoThinkstock

Dear Diane,

**The parents of a child my son is friendly with have had a very bitter divorce and refuse to see or speak to each other. Apparently, when he’s dropped off at

one or other parent’s, he’s left at the gate and has to go in with his sister. I gather most arrangements are made by text and he and his sister even have a set of clothes for wearing at each place, and have to change into them as soon as they arrive. My son’s taken all this negativity to heart and gets upset for his friend. I think the parents are behaving like toddlers and it’s very tempting just to say so. However, I have to assume that my son might pass my comments on, so I wonder what you suggest in terms of explaining the friend’s situation in a way he can understand. They’re both seven by the way.**

Alice, by email

Divorced parents and children. PhotoThinkstock

Dear Alice,

You are quite right to hesitate before describing the parents’ behaviour as toddler-like. At seven years old, your son is old enough to understand that different households work in different ways. The first reassurance he needs is that his parents love each other, intend to stay together forever, and he is never going to find himself in the same position as his friend.The second piece of information he needs is that some parents don’t get on well enough to stay together forever, and sometimes it is better to live happily apart than miserably together. Living unhappily together means the children have to endure warring parents, and it is better that their children have separate relationships with each parent. Most parents can make peaceful arrangements for their children, but some are so very cross with each other that they cannot even bear to speak with each other or be in the same space. The best they can do is to communicate by text and not see each other at drop-off times. By putting his friend’s situation in the light of “these parents are doing their best with an awful situation”, you preserve your son’s faith a little longer that grown-ups have their children’s best interests at heart.

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