Separated fathers who no longer live with their children should avoid becoming “Pizza Express dads” with endless meals out and trips to the zoo when their youngsters come to stay.
Instead they should do unexciting, normal family things such as play games, go to the park or watch TV, according to a new guide.
The blueprint for separating parents, produced by divorce lawyers at Mishcon de Reya and a children’s mental health charity, says that children crave the ordinary when they see the parent that they no longer live with, usually their father.
The book, entitled Splitting Up — A Child’s Guide to a Grown-up Problem, draws on the testimonies of more than 30 children whose parents have separated, and covers subjects such as breaking the news and adjusting to two homes.
A commentary aimed at helping parents to navigate this difficult terrain is written by Stephen Adams-Langley, senior clinical consultant to the charity Place2Be.
Mishcon de Reya deals with some of the most difficult divorce cases. Famous clients have included Diana, Princess of Wales, and Heather Mills. In the legal system, children’s feelings often get forgotten during divorce wrangles, according to Sandra Davis, head of the family department, which is why this guide is needed.
“The voice of the child is still not heard powerfully enough,” she said. “Taking into account the welfare, wishes and feelings of children during a family dispute is an enshrined legal principle, but without the concerted effort of parents to prioritise their children over their difficulties with one another, the law can only do so much.”
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Splitting Up – A Child's Guide to a Grown Up Problem will be launched on 12 September.