Helping your child adjust to separation or divorce

It’s hard to know how your child will react to divorce or separation. They may be find it easier to cope with than you expect. But adjusting to the change is likely to create some challenges. There are a few things you can do to make sure that they feel supported and reassured during that time.

Remember your child will have to process lots of emotions during this time. Try to be aware of this and sensitive to their feelings. They may feel anger, sadness, guilt and disappointment. They might even hope that you’ll get back together.

Separation dad talking to child

Spot behaviour changes

Sometimes children express their emotions through new or challenging behaviour. They might:

  • Act out.
  • Become withdrawn.
  • Be very clingy.
  • Get upset by things that don’t usually bother them.

Help them feel secure

Give your child time to accept the changes. They might feel they have no control over what’s happening, and this can be scary and overwhelming.

Let them know you’ll always be there for them. If you’re going to co-parent with your partner, make sure your child knows that you will plan schedules and rules together. Try to keep routines like mealtimes and bedtimes as normal as possible.

Use some soothing activities to help with difficult emotions. Read more about how you can help your child deal with intense feelings.

Make sure they’ve got support

Your child might find it easier to talk to someone outside the home. You could arrange for them to chat to an extended family member, friend or professional.

It could be a good idea to let their school or college know. Their teachers may be able to arrange for extra support, like a school counsellor or family support worker.

Be open with your child

Make sure that you talk about the changes with your child. Try to help them understand what’s going to happen, and highlight the positives.

  • Give them plenty of reassurance. Let them know that you love them very much and always will.
  • Don’t shut them out. Tell them about the separation and how you feel in an age-appropriate way.
  • Include them in discussions about the things that impact their lives if they’re old enough. But be careful to avoid involving them in adult decisions.

Keep listening to them

After separation, you may need to focus on the routine of daily parenting and your own feelings. This is completely normal, and it’s OK to take it one day at a time. But listen carefully to what your child says, feels and needs over time.

Cafcass runs a course designed to help parents understand what their children need most during separation. It’s free in some cases.

Go back

How can I help my child cope with change?

Read

How can I help my child deal with their emotions?

Read

I’m thinking of leaving my relationship

Read

Active listening skills for parents

Read

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