What to tell the children about your divorce or separation

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If you’re struggling with a family breakup, how do you keep your children in the loop? Looking at family breakups from the child’s point of view, find out what they need to know, what they don’t, and how you can still be a parent for them during this difficult time.

Being honest with your children

It’s really important to talk to your children about what is happening with your relationship and to be honest with them. They don’t necessarily need to know all the details about why your relationship has broken down but rather what is going to happen next. Younger children may be happy with fewer details but you can give older children more information if you feel it helps.

Let your children know that they can talk to you about their feelings. They may feel angry or sad, but it’s important that they know it is okay and normal for them to feel that way. Children need to know that you will still both be their parents and that you will always put their needs first and love them.

Keep to your normal family routines

Stick to your normal schedules as much as possible, such as mealtimes, bedtimes, and things they do after school. This can really help to make things feel more normal even if emotionally things are a bit up in the air. It helps to make sure that things which are important to your children such as school and friends are still a priority. Children are always affected by divorce and separation but as long as you ensure they have regular contact with you and your ex-partner it doesn’ t have to be negative.

Effect on children

Research shows that one of the things which affects children most when parents are separating is when there is conflict between you and your partner and when there is difficulty with your child seeing one of the parents. So it’s important to ensure both you and your ex-partner have regular contact with your children (unless there are issues around child protection). It’s also important that you don’t blame your partner for the break up of your relationship or put them down in front of the children.

Talking to older children about divorce

Once your child turns 14, it is more likely that they will have more of an opinion about what went wrong in your relationship, and are more likely to take sides. It is quite normal for your teen to go through mood swings and challenging behaviour but this isn’t all down to your divorce or separation but it just normal for their age. 

Your teen is likely to feel angry and unfortunately you may be on the receiving end of this. It’s important that they know that it is okay to be angry about this. Make sure that they understand that what has gone wrong in your relationship doesn’t have to happen in all relationships

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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