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Support For Kids When Parents Separate

The Child Support Agency (CSA) and Kids Helpline have joined forces to support kids who are having trouble coping when their parents break up.

CSA General Manager, Matt Miller, said National Youth Week (28 March to 5 April) is an ideal time to highlight the issues and feelings children may experience when their parents separate, and to encourage parents and kids to seek help if and when they need it.

More parents are working together for the benefit of their children, Mr Miller said.

Independent research conducted by the Open Mind Research Group in August 2008 showed that only 17 per cent of receiving parents and 14 per cent of paying parents surveyed said they were extremely unlikely to be able to liaise with their ex-partner in a businesslike way.

This is significantly fewer compared to the previous wave of research conducted in early 2008 (37 per cent receiving parents and 31 per cent paying parents), he said.

So while more separated parents are working together, they can still experience a range of emotions like grief, loss and depression when they separate and their children may be suffering too.

There are approximately 445,000 teenagers whose parents are registered with the CSA, with an additional 11,000 teenagers affected by family separation in Australia every year.

Kids Helpline General Manager Wendy Protheroe said the most common issue children call to talk about is family relationships, particularly conflict and separation.

Last year we undertook almost 9,000 counselling sessions about family relationships and almost three-quarters of those related to frequent or major family conflict and family breakdown, separation or divorce, Ms Protheroe said.

Many parents dont realise that even minor conflict can be harmful for their children, so its important for families to be aware of the range of support services available.

Mr Miller said family separation is a common experience in Australia, and it was important for parents to put the wellbeing of their children first.

I encourage separated parents to learn about the many resources available to not only help them, but also to help their kids, Mr Miller said.

Mr Miller said the booklet Family Separation a guide for teens offers great advice for teens about how to cope with their changing situation and contains a list of contacts they can approach for support. The information is also available at www.youth.csa.gov.au

The booklet and website were developed in consultation with more than 20 stakeholders and community organisations including Kids Helpline, beyondblue and Relationships Australia.

The guide helps teenagers to identify their rights and it contains a list of contacts that teens can approach for help, Mr Miller said.

We encourage those who feel they need support to ask for it them to reach out to friends and professionals if they need to.

One parent who was involved in the research of the booklet said it was something that would help parents address questions they didnt know their children had.

Everyone says kids cope, that they just adapt, and they do, but theres a lot left unspoken.

The CSA is also in the process of developing products specifically for children aged under 12 who are experiencing family separation, addressing common issues like grief, anxiety and dealing with conflict.

Kids Helpline, Australias only national childrens counselling service, provides 24 hour counselling services to young people aged 5 to 25 years free call 1800 55 1800 or online at www.kidshelp.com.au

When parents separate, young people often say they feel isolated so its important that they know theyre not alone, and that there are people they can talk to, Mr Miller said.
 

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