Posted by Sarah Back on 21st March 2016

Every parent becomes frustrated when they think their children aren’t listening. Many spend every morning telling children umpteen times to: get dressed / finish their breakfast / find their book bag / get their shoes on / brush their teeth – etc etc.

It could be fair to suggest that most parents feel that when they tell their children important things, the children always seem suddenly to go deaf, or switch off.

But when a marriage or relationship breaks down, it’s important to remember that children often hear more than we give them credit for.

It’s normal during a relationship breakdown for both parents instinctively to keep their arguments and discussions out of earshot of their children. However, as hard as we try, it’s not always possible.

At what age do they start to understand?

As parents, we may instinctively make assumptions about our children’s ‘listening’ age. At what age do they start to really understand adult discussions. When do the implications of hearing constantly rowing parents or niggling arguments start to sink in? Do children actually shut these interactions out, or do they take it all in?

It’s important that we are sensitive to the possibility of a child hearing and understanding on a much deeper level than we are expecting them to.

To give an example, a relative is in the process of relocating, meaning that her three children, aged 9, 7 and 3 will be going to new schools and nurseries. The discussions between the parents have generally happened in private, or what they have assumed was private. However, the three-year old is taking in much more than the parents realised. When she was collected from her nursery recently, the staff said that she had announced: “You’re my old nursery, I’m going to a new one after the holidays.”

The moral of the story is that when you are discussing matters of a sensitive nature and you think your children aren’t listening or can’t hear you, don’t be complacent. By placing the children’s emotional wellbeing at the centre of your discussions, you will understand the need for discretion, and, even in the case of a three-year-old, the requirement to only talk about things well out of earshot of your children!

If you would like any advice on separation, divorce or children matters please don’t hesitate to contact The Family Law Company. We place children at the heart of everything we do.

Logo for the bronze award for defence employer recognition scheme of 2015The Family Law society accreditation in Advanced Family lawImage of The Law Society Accreditation of Children Law.
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