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When a split hits home

DEMI Moore is said to be devastated that her daughters are apparently considering applying for a restraining order against her to stop her from contacting them.

It's reported that Rumer (23), Scout (20) and Tallulah (18) no longer feel able to deal with Demi's unpredictable behaviour following her split from husband Ashton Kutcher.

Even as young women living their own lives, Demi's daughters feel unable to deal with their mum going off the rails.

Yet divorce often happens when children are teenagers or younger, making it even more difficult again to deal with a mum or dad who no longer behaves like a protective parent should.

"One of the most difficult changes for any child or teenager is having to deal with the break-up of their parents' relationship," says parenting expert Martina Newe, founder of HelpMe2Parent.ie. "It shatters their secure world where they always believed that mum and dad would be together forever, and they would have both of them with them to help them to live happily ever after.



guilt

"Sadly, however, parents separate and it leaves children to deal with all of the fallout and worries that follow.

"Children can be flooded with so many feelings, such as anger because their parents have split up and worry about the future. There'll be sadness at the loss of having both parents living with them and guilt because maybe they feel they did something to cause it. Often, if there has been a lot of arguing between parents, there'll be relief that the stress of constant fighting is over.

"Oh yes, let's toss in embarrassment, too -- how do children deal with feeling that people are discussing the breakdown and worse still, how will they face their peers?" There are a few things that children can do to help and protect themselves from some of the fall-out from their parents' break-up, Martina advises.

Don't let yourself become the messenger.

"Be firm with your parents, if they have something to communicate with each other then they must do it without involving you. If they can't talk, then tell them to text or email. Asking you to pass messages is not fair and places you in a very awkward position. It is not your responsibility to be the 'go between' so be clear with both of your parents that you will not do this."

Don't let yourself become the therapist. "Often, parents will discuss what led to the break-up, how they feel -- perhaps sad or disappointed, or what is wrong with the other parent's behaviour and so forth.

"Remember, you are in the middle here and having to listen to one of your parents criticising the other is very difficult.

"If you don't defend the other parent, you may feel guilty. If you do defend the other parent, then you may be risking damaging your relationship with the parent who is talking to you. Either way, you are in an impossible position. Explain to each of your parents that this is not easy for you and if they need to unload about each other, make sure they do it with someone else and not you."

Don't assume the adult or co-parenting role either:

"It's difficult if we see our parents struggle to cope and continue with day-to-day living. However, remember that while it's okay to help out, it's not your role to take over some of the adult responsibilities or to become a co-parent over your siblings. Helping out with chores and jobs around the house is fine. However, trying to help your parent to deal with their emotions is not your role so if you feel your parent needs support, ask them to talk to a friend or therapist."



SUPPORT

Get help and support with working through your feelings, adds Martina.

"Many times, everyone worries about the parents themselves. However, you too have to deal with your own feelings and how you can work through these. Whatever is going on, it is important that you get support in dealing with and adjusting to the new family structure. Talk to a good friend, a counsellor, a trusted adult or seek help from some of the support groups for children of parental separation."

Finally, remember that this phase will improve.

"You and your parents will eventually get used to the situation and, hopefully, the tension and stress of the early phase of separation will gradually disappear. You still have your life to live, your friends, hobbies, and social life, so don't feel that all of these pleasures in your life have gone forever. Make sure that you set aside time for you."

For more information on workshops and support on parenting, including separation and divorce, log on to www.helpme2parent.ie