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North Coast divorce rate high

THE North Coast has one of the highest divorce rates in NSW, so families need as much help as they can get, the Child Support Agency's Ballina team leader, Bronwyn Saunders, says.

She said the agency looked after more than 18,000 separated parents between Tweed Heads and Maclean and west to Casino.

“That probably means there's at least double that number of children affected by divorce or separation,” Ms Saunders said.

According to figures from the 2006 Census, 23 per cent of all families in Byron Bay are one-parent families with dependent children.

This is compared with 17pc in Ballina; 20pc in Lismore and 19pc in the Richmond Valley.

The NSW average is 16pc.

“Many of those children are teenagers who probably don't communicate their feelings as well as they should,” Ms Saunders said.

“So problems can start developing.”

But a new booklet, Family Separation: A guide for teens, is proving to be a handy tool for single-parent families.

It is a joint project of the Child Support Agency and the Kids Helpline.

The booklet was developed in consultation with more than 20 community organisations. These included beyondblue and Relationships Australia.

Ms Saunders said the booklet was popular with service providers across the Northern Rivers.

“Parents always say they are worried about how divorce will affect their children,” she said.

“Teens might seem to be coping well, but it's recommended that they talk through their issues.

“Sometimes parents rely on their teenagers too much, or they involve them more than they should.

“Teenagers are very aware of what's going on.

“They might act tough and think that they are coping, but the reality can be very different.”

Kids Helpline general manager Wendy Protheroe said many children called in to talk about family relationships, particularly conflict and separation.

“Last year we undertook almost 9000 counselling sessions about family relationships and almost three-quarters of those related to frequent or major family conflict and family breakdown, separation or divorce,” she said.

Ms Saunders said the booklet aimed to get teenagers to deal with their emotions.

“It gives them hints and tips on looking after themselves,” she said.

“Parents can pick one up and just leave it on the kitchen table. The kids will look at it.”

The booklet information is also available at www.youth.csa.gov.au

Kids Helpline is a free call on 1800 55 1800 or online at www.kidshelp. com.au



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