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Don’t let your agony magnify your children’s pain

The tragedy of BBC Radio 3 presenter Andy Kershaw’s much-publicised downfall highlights, in the most painful way, the effect an acrimonious separation can have on children.

This week, the troubled DJ was ordered by a judge to leave the Isle of Man, where he’s lived for the last few years, and return to the mainland to live with his mother.

It was the culmination of many months of troubling headlines involving Mr Kershaw’s repeated hounding of his estranged partner, Juliette Banner.

The latest twist in this unhappy saga happened when, two days after being released from prison last Friday after serving six weeks for breaching a restraining order, the radio presenter hosted a birthday party for his daughter Dolly’s ninth birthday. According to reports, she and her brother Sonny, ten, were left “very distressed, crying, hysterical and sobbing” as a result of his drink-fuelled behaviour.

One can only imagine the tumult of these two young children – who are too young to understand the reasons for their father’s “emotional meltdown” but old enough to be seriously affected by it.

Mr Kershaw obviously has major problems, not least with alcohol, but he has allowed them to get out of hand to the extent that his children have been traumatised.

No doubt many people will feel some sympathy for the DJ – his latest partner has left him – but his fall from grace is a timely reminder of how vital it is to put your children’s needs before your own when a relationship breaks down.

However distraught you may be, it’s important to realise that if you don’t manage the situation well, you will almost certainly cause your children additional pain. And that trauma may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Young children are very resilient and if can adapt surprisingly well to their parents’ separation. But they will come through the experience relatively unscarred only if their parents, individually and together, take time and effort to ensure the youngsters feel wanted, cared for, secure and very much loved.

Of course, if you are going through a personal crisis, it can be extremely difficult to put your emotions to one side and concentrate on your children’s well-being. So for anyone in such a situation, my advice would be to seek out professional help – either medical or psychological – as soon as possible.

Furthermore, if you feel unable to cope around your children (perhaps because they remind you too much of your lost relationship), then it might be wise to physically remove yourself for a period of time. Yes, the kids are likely to miss you, but they probably won’t suffer as much as seeing you become an emotional wreck.

Many of us can imagine what it’s like to fall to pieces over a failed relationship, as Andy Kershaw has done, but most of us can also imagine just how damaging that can be to children.

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