What About Henry? – Communicating With Children About Divorce & Separation

FLiP family law associate and mediator Nicole Phillips is the family lawyer guest on the six-week training programme “What About Henry?”. In this blog Nicole summarises the top tips coming out of the third session on how to communicate well with children through divorce and separation. Details of how to sign onto the course can be found at the bottom of this page. 

In last weeks’ What about Henry?’ session, Dr Angharad Rudkin talked about communication with children. She explained that humans do most of their communication through non-verbal rather than verbal means. The same is true for children. In fact, experts estimate that non-verbal communication constitutes around 80 per cent of communication.

Family communication lines are more likely to become crossed and tangled at the point of separation or divorce, because of the practical and emotional complexities that arise. For parents who are keen to keep the channels of communication between them and their children open and flowing, Angharad’s golden rules of communication with children are sacrosanct. Her list includes:

  1. Giving children your full attention
  2. Listening more than you talk
  3. Children can generally focus for 1 minute per year of life
  4. Ask your child to repeat back what they have heard and understood
  5. Be curious rather than judgmental
  6. Children can sniff out insincerity

Keeping the lines of communication open will mean that children experiencing separation and divorce can more readily access the additional support and reassurance that they are likely to need from their parents.

Asking a child to repeat back what they have heard allows the parent to check that what they have said has been digested and understood by their child. That leaves less room for the child to misunderstand what they were told, which as discussed in my first article here, can result in the child filling in perceived gaps with unhelpful notions of self-blame.

The list of golden rules above forms a fantastic guide for separating parents embarking on difficult conversations around divorce and separation with their children.

Nicole Phillips is a specialist family lawyer and mediator at FLiP. Nicole’s aim is to lend a listening ear and navigate her clients through their divorce and separation with dignity and sensitivity. Nicole strives to provide first rate legal guidance and clarity around different options whilst providing tactical and commercial advice and emotionally intelligent solutions.