When a family breaks down often the focus is on the parents and how they are coping, but one charity aims to put the needs of the children at their core.
H2H offers supports to young people aged eight to 18 experiencing divorce or separation within their family.
The organisation has been running in Stirling for the last decade and is now branching into Falkirk to help youngsters struggling with the break up of their parents.
Jenni Pringle is co-ordinator for H2H, which is part of Heart to Heart, an organisation for couples going through divorce, and Jenni has personal experience of divorce.
Jenni said: “My parents divorce really affected me. I would have loved to have someone neutral, that had experienced similar and knew what I was going through, to talk to about it. So when I heard about H2H I was keen to get involved and try to make the transition easier for another young person.”
Jenni became a life guide when she was 22, meeting up with children and teenagers experiencing divorce or separation and helping them through. The informal one-to-one peer support allows the young people to meet up in a neutral space and talk through their feelings and worries.
Life guides are aged between 18-25 and when she reached 25, Jenni was asked to take over the co-ordinating role.
Jenni, from Stirling, said: “People think that children might struggle most to cope when their parents first get divorced but actually the relationship breakdown has life-long consequences. It becomes a question of who goes to parents’ night at school? Do I need to split my time between two parents? Or should I invite my dad to my wedding?
“Personally, my parents split up when I was a baby but I found it most difficult to cope when my mum remarried.
“I was 13 and dealing with the fact that my dad was in and out of my life and had a turbulent relationship, as well as getting this new step-dad and step-family. On top of that, I was becoming a teenager and starting to understand more about emotions.
“Lots of the young people that come for help don’t come when their parents split up, but when one parent meets someone else and remarries.
“Often they have harboured feelings that their parents will eventually get back together or the addition of a step-parent has changed the dynamics between their parents as they cope with the other moving on.
“These are really complex feelings and lots of young people need help to understand them and adjust.”
Since 2014 H2H has helped over 150 young people who are dealing with divorce or separation, with referrals coming from schools, GPs and family members.
The scheme has flourished in Stirling and Jenni thinks it’s a much needed service in Falkirk.
For H2H to be successful, they need young volunteers to act as life guides. The charity provides full training from Falkirk Trinity Church and a life guide only needs to commit to meeting up with a young person once a week for six weeks to deliver cognitive-based training to help them cope.
One mother of a young person who benefitted from the one-to-one support from H2H said: “It has been a relief for my daughter to realise that she is not alone in her feelings and anxieties, that has helped a lot.
“The best part for her was having someone to talk to who understands and who had similar feelings. She was given the tools she needed to deal with her problems and it has been invaluable.”
Jenni, who recently earned a PHD in social sciences from Stirling University, said: “Without the volunteer life guides, there would be no service so recruiting young people passionate about helping is essential.
“We give full training and the volunteers tell us they get a lot back from helping another person. Often it can help the volunteer realise things about their experience of divorce.”
One in four young people will experience family break ups and currently one in three marriages will end in divorce in the UK.
The seven year itch seems to be a real phenomenon with couples most likely to divorce after seven years together.
Gillian Gardner, business development manager at Falkirk Trinity Church says she can’t wait to welcome the group at the church.
Gillian said: “We want to make the church a space the whole community can enjoy and benefit from. We have lots of space and are ideally located in the centre of town, close to public transport links, to host groups.
“I’ve never heard of an organisation offering the kind of help H2H does and I think it’s a very worthy charity.
“Young people dealing with a family breakdown are very vulnerable so I hope H2H gets lots of support from the community to deliver their worthy service.”