Childcare expert warns against using children as 'weapons in the marital war'

One of Britain’s leading childcare experts, Penelope Leach, has warned that the damage to children that can happen as a result of divorce or separation is being ignored.

Penelope Leach was interviewed for an article in the Guardian newspaper, published on Saturday, in which she likens the repercussions of divorce on children as an epidemic which is targeting the nation’s children.

Penelope Leach is one of the UK’s leading experts on parenting and her classic guide to childcare, Your Baby and Child, has become an international bestseller since it was published almost 40 years ago. Her latest book, Family Breakdown, is devoted to the topic of divorce and separation and has been written as result of her concerns over the ‘epidemic’ of divorce.

Leach wants us to think of divorce and separation as an epidemic because, she says, that as with visible epidemics such as disease and medical emergencies, family breakdown has affected over half of children aged under 16 and because of the damage that is caused.

According to Leach, even babies can be harmed by divorce and separation and comments in The Guardian article that: “We can argue about all sorts of things around the edges, but we can’t argue about the damage it does.

Divorce and separation will always be bad for children – there’s no getting away from it. It ranges from disruptive and sad to tragic. What’s best for children is if their parents love one another for ever, but there are always lots of things that you can’t get perfect for your children.”

Leach feels that the problem is that divorce has to be handled better: “The numbers are going through the roof, but we’re not handling it, or dealing with it, any more successfully at all. Break-up is seen as primarily adults’ business, but it’s just as much about children’s lives.

Children are being used as weapons in the marital war when actually they are its victims.”

So what does Leach feel is the ‘best’ way to divorce? The answer is ‘mutual parenting’ – in other words parents who no longer love each other and can’t stand each other’s company must be prepared to co-parent their children: “You have to put your children’s needs, not your own, at the very heart of it all: so it’s not about getting revenge or working out your animosity, it’s about remembering that your former partner is the very best father or mother for your child. That’s why I can’t understand why people want to airbrush their former partner out of the equation because their presence is really important for the child’s future.”

To read The Guardian’s article, please visit The Guardian website.

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