The end of a relationship is generally a very difficult time for people; sadness, confusion, anger and conflict may be dominating their life during this trying period. Regrettably, separating parents may unwillingly overlook the impact their behaviour and actions may have on their children.
Parents, children, relationships and parenting styles are all unique and come in a myriad of different combinations and hence, the way your child reacts to your separation will be unique to them. However, their response will usually be determined by;
- Family dynamics and relationships before the separation
- Your children’s ages and personalities
- How both you and your ex-partner manage the situation
Understanding the impact of family separation can have on your child is important in helping them cope. The following highlights tips and tools that separating parents can use to minimise the negative impact marital breakdown can have on their children.
Related Article: A Guide To Co-Parenting
Responses children often have to their parents separating
The emotional and cognitive process children go through when their parents separate is often quite different to adults. Some common fears and worries expressed by children whose parents are going through separation or divorce include:
- A sense of loss – separation from a parent can mean you lose not only your home, but your whole way of life
- Angry and sad about the loss of the family unit
- Abandoned or rejected by the parent that leaves
- Torn between both parents.
- Worried about having caused the parental separation: guilty
- Worried about the parent who is not living with them
- Fearful about being left alone – if one parent can go, perhaps the other will do the same
- Rejected and insecure
- Angry at one or both parents for the relationship breakdown
Common questions children may have
Consider what concerns and worries your child may have about the divorce and how it may affect their lives.
- Was it my fault?
- Will you get back together? Is it really over?
- Who is responsible for me?
- Where will I live?
- Will I have to change schools?
- Can I still see my friends?
- Will I still visit my grandparents/extended family?
- What will happen to my pets?
- What am I going to tell my friends?
- If I am separated from my brothers and sisters, will we still see each other?
- Will both of you be at my [birthday party/concert/sports game]?
“It will take time for your children to process how they feel. You should expect to have many more conversations with them as the separation and divorce proceed. Both you and your spouse should be open to answering questions and responding to your children’s emotional needs. Be honest with them about what you know and what you don’t know.”
Related Article: 12 Books to help your children cope with separation and divorce
What parents can do to minimise the impact of separation on their children
- Introduce change gradually
- Plan with the other parent
- Continue to communicate with the other parent about your child’s needs and interests
- Avoid arguing in front of them
- Don’t criticise the other parent in front them
- Try to make supportive comments of your child’s ongoing relationship with the other parent when talking to them
- Listen to your children and focus on their best interests and needs
- Avoid asking your children to give messages to the other parent
- Turn to other adults for emotional support rather than your child
- Reassure your kids that they are not to blame for the separation
- Ensure that your children know that you and their other parent still love them
- Encourage your children to talk about the separation – secrets can be very tough on children
- Consider advising your child’s school about what is happening – notify the principal, school counsellor or teachers.
Note: This is general information advice only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters, please contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email email@example.com
 Moninger, J, How to Tell Your Kids That You’re Getting A Divorce, viewed 24 October 2018. https://www.parents.com/parenting/divorce/children/how-to-tell-your-kids-that-you-are-getting-a-divorce/