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Break can be a relief

Liz Morris is a school counsellor with the Bristol and Somerset Schools Team, an independent group, funded by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Government, whose work takes her into a junior school and a special school in Bristol.

She says: "Our figures don't bear out the idea that divorce, as such, is the major problem. Last year, 42 per cent of problems were to do with family relationships, but only 5 per cent with family break-up.

"And family relationship problems can be anything. Some children say they feel left out at home, or that someone else is preferred to them. They might say they are not cared about. I have had little ones say, 'They haven't got time for me.'

"That can then lead to other difficulties with their peers. Sometimes the rumblings which precede a separation are more difficult for a child to deal with than the intense experience of a break-up. At least then the child knows where everyone stands.

"Most parents do try to be thoughtful about their children, even in the middle of a break-up. We get parents referring children to us. But this sort of support is very hard for most families to find. The statutory services and the child and adolescent mental health service are so over-burdened they find it difficult to respond to this need."

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