Separated couples should focus on the children

Couples who are separated should place greater focus on their children rather than on their relationship, new research has shown. The study from the University of Missouri revealed such an approach will enable the two parties to co-parent more efficiently.

Marilyn Coleman, Curators' Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the learning institute, noted the link between ex-partners does not need to remain hostile and can be improved.

Professor Coleman explained these associations can be bolstered by placing a greater emphasis on the children they share.

She observed many bad relationships mature and become more amicable over time, adding: "The parents saw how upset their arguments made their kids, so they decided to put their differences aside and focus on what was best for the children."

It was shown that youngsters can be particularly affected by a breakup if the parents continue to bicker, as they not only lose a degree of access to their mum and dad, but also still have to contend with all the ugliness of conflict.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Jennifer Leonard commented: "As a practitioner who specialises in working with families, I agree with Professor Coleman's findings.

"Inevitably, parents who separate are likely to feel a whole range of emotions from depression, anger and resentment through to relief and or guilt.

"Understandably, it can be hard to remain polite, respectful and reasonable when ex-partners meet up. However, it is much less distressing for children if parents can agree not to continue to argue in front of the children.

"Focusing on what's best for the kids, agreeing on parenting strategies, discipline, routine, diet, health, school (or agreeing to disagree if necessary) will help the children to feel more secure.

"Above all, children need reassuring that the separation is not their fault and that both parents will always love them. Talking together can help parents to understand what has happened and get closure so that they can move on.

"When this is too difficult face to face, then working with a couple's counsellor or mediator can be helpful. Using email rather than the telephone or text can also be helpful, as it tends to take the emotion out of the communication when practical issues need to be addressed."