Should couples stay together for the sake of the children?

Often parents recognise their relationship is not working well but decide to stay together ‘until the children leave home’, ‘for the sake of the children’, because they don’t want to break up the family, but is this always the ‘right’ thing to do?

How aware are your children of the difficulties in your relationship?

Couples often believe their children have no idea about their relationship difficulties and are surprised to find their children are not shocked when they split up.  Most children will have classmates or friends with separated parents and may talk to their peers about their experiences.  They may ask their friends if their parents argue or if they spend a lot of time apart, e.g. going out separately, sitting in different rooms, watching different TV programmes.   This may lead them to realise that all is not well in your relationship.

Do your children mirror your behaviour? 

If you witness your children arguing with siblings/friends, consider whether they are mirroring what they have observed you and your partner doing/saying.  You may feel you don’t argue in front of the children but they will pick up on the signs, e.g. ignoring each other, using them as a third party … e.g. ‘ask your father to …’ .  If you argue after the children have gone to bed, can you guarantee they cannot hear anything?  Probably not! 

Deciding to end your relationship

Research shows that it is the effects of conflict rather than the actual separation of their parents that causes difficulties for the children.  You may choose to explore relationship counselling to find out if you can improve matters. The decision to end a relationship is one that should never be taken lightly.  If you both feel you have explored all other options but you no longer wish to stay together, consider mediation to help you make important decisions about the future for both of you and for your children.

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