Children need support at this time; but so do you!

Breakup need not mean family breakdown

We need remember that marital breakup need not necessarily lead to family breakdown and aim to minimize the impact on the children. Children who are prepared in advance of the separation take the stress of parents separating more easily. Therefore, communicating with the child and use of toys and play can be beneficial in helping a child understand.

Children’s needs following family separation

The most important message a child need is lots of reassurance that although each parent loves their child very very much, that they no longer love each other. Children often blame themselves so taking the time to reassure and prioritising her emotional needs is paramount. It is important to listen to the child and to ‘acknowledge their feelings’ rather than dismiss or dilute them which stops them expressing how they feel. Ensure that you minimize changes at this time as routine and predictability is helpful to the child in feeling more secure.


It’s normal for children to experience a range of strong emotions about the separation. These might include shock, sadness, worry, anger embarrassment, guilt, fear and rejection. Such responses are likely to be expressed in their behaviour and are usually resolved over time.

Embodiments – Bedwetting

Children may respond by embodying their feelings so bedwetting or soiling or tummy pains may be an issue. Alternatively, stammering, nail biting or clinginess can also be some of the responses a child may present with. Obviously, deal with any of these embodiments with kindness and compassion and encourage your child to talk about how they feel or to draw or role play out what is happening for them at an emotional level.

Encourage Communication:

  • Their feelings are normal
  • They are not the problem; the separation has created the stresses and changes in their life.
  • It takes time to work through these feelings and adjust to their changed family situation
  • It helps to talk with someone
  • You are there for them

 What impacts negatively?

  • Conflict between parents before, during and/or after separation
  • Repeated disruptions to their lives
  • Feeling their life is out of control
  • Feeling alone or ‘different’

What’s really best for them?

  • A shared Parenting approach
  • A Parenting plan about how you will deal with decisions, difficulties & responsibilities
  • Put their interests first
  • Don’t involve them in adult conflicts
  • Support their relationship with both parents
  • Keep changes to a minimum
  • Talk and actively listen

Top Tips: According to Barnardos

  1. Putting your children’s needs first during your separation or divorce does make a difference. Children who were found to have adapted well:
  2. Received clear explanations from their parents about what was happening and why
  3. Had parents who behaved in responsible and predictable ways
  4. Were supported in having good relationships with both parents during and after separation
  5. Had someone with whom they could talk to and confide their feelings