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Parents’ separation

Parents’ separation

The end of a relationship means an extensive life change. Separation is usually not a quick process. All parties involved in the separation have their own individual feelings about the process, and they get through it at their own pace. The separation is usually preceded by the experience of a dysfunctional or unsatisfactory relationship. Signs that precede a separation include, for example, contempt, biting criticism, silence, constant defensiveness and unwillingness to settle arguments. Read more about the signs on the Väestöliitto's (The Family Federation of Finland) website (in Finnish).

Separation is usually preceded by a period of contemplation. Often one of the parties considers separation alone, making it come as a surprise to the other party. It would be best if the partners could discuss their feelings and thoughts about a possible separation as openly as possible at an early stage. The contemplation does not have to lead to a separation. Seeking help before the problems can culminate supports the building of a functional relationship. Talking about things together also makes it easier to process and accept the separation if that is what the couple later decides to do.

Many kinds of support are available for people who want to strengthen their relationship or who are considering separation (see the links in the side bar). Seeking external help may feel difficult, but low threshold support is also provided by peer support-based groups and online discussions, for example.

You can also go to therapy alone or together with your spouse. Therapy may provide a neutral place for couples to consider their situation. It provides an opportunity to learn to understand yourself and your partner better. Practising balanced interaction is also beneficial for the future.

Separation may evoke a range of feelings. The initial shock and panic may manifest themselves as anger, grief, depression or denial, for example. These emotions bring with them an understanding that the separation is real, and you can start thinking about adapting to the situation and facing forwards. All emotions are justified and should be processed. Talking about the separation and the feelings and thoughts it evokes can make you feel better. These discussions can be held with friends, in instructor-led peer support groups or individual therapy, for example.

In order to ensure the child’s well-being, it is important that the parents cooperate and think about matters from the child’s perspective. Hopefully, both parents will continue their parenthood and parenting relationship even after the relationship ends. The Väestöliitto website provides further information on the parenting relationship and factors that protect children (in Finnish). The best way the parents can prevent the separation from having a detrimental effect on the child is by making an effort to cooperate effectively in matters pertaining to the child. Effort and understanding are needed for smooth cooperation.

The child feels better when he or she is able to take both parents’ side and love them without feelings of guilt. Separation evokes a range of feelings in children, such as fear, anger and relief. The parents must tell the child honestly about the situation, but they do not have to expose every detail. The child may express his or her feelings or they may manifest in his or her behaviour soon or not until a length of time has passed since the parents’ separation. Asking, listening to and taking the child’s wishes into consideration strengthens the parents’ relationship with the child and may help him or her process the situation. 

Familia’s Duo Project offers relationship counselling for intercultural couples in Finnish and English. The counselling is subject to a charge. Väestöliitto, the Family Federation of Finland provides relationship counselling and couples therapy in Finnish and English. (Search for relationship counselling services)

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28.10.2020 15:41