Kathy Memel, a marriage and family therapist answers:
It is very important for parents to to get help with their anger and upset about the separation, and stop fighting in front of the children. Otherwise, the hurt and anger can last for years and adversely affect, not just the parents, but especially their children.
What helps children is for parents to make use of their separation to settle their feelings about each other, to close the door on issues they can’t change, and not use old issues as a way to keep on fighting.
A mediator can help parents settle the differences on their own behalf, and even more importantly, on behalf of their children.
What enables children to do well or causes them to do poorly as a result of their separation?
The most important and crucial factor is for a child to have a continued relationship with BOTH parents after they separate, even if their relationship with one parent was not very close while the parents were together.
Sometimes a child and a parent who were not very close can use the separation as a second chance to develop a more loving and closer relationship than they had when the parents were together.
Children who suffer the most from their parent’s separation are those who have their relationship with one parent disrupted by loss of contact with that parent. These children never recover the momentum and become unhappy and depressed children in the years following their parents separation. Your children need to have frequent and continuing contact and access to both of you.