After Separation or Divorce – Helping Children Adjust

Usually, separation and divorce mean big changes for your family life. Your child might feel upset or unsettled if you’re going through divorce or separation. You might even see some behavior you don’t like but it’s normal and OK for your child to feel unsettled or upset, and it’ll help him to know that this is a tough time for everyone.

Your child does have a right to know what’s happening, even doesn’t need to know all the details, he needs to know that things will be OK again. It’s best if you can explain in simple, clear and honest language your child can understand.

You can help your child adjust and cope by making special time for your child, reassuring your child, talking honestly with your child and sticking with family routines.

Children’s well-being and happiness depend most on how much time parents spend talking and being with them, whether children live with one parent or two parents.

Your child will probably see you feeling upset, angry or sad, don’t worry that’s natural and even healthy. It’s important to let your child know that you love him, that things will get better and that your feelings are not his fault.

Seeing you express feelings in a healthy and calm way lets your child know that it’s OK for him to do this too. It might be difficult to hear about your child’s anger or hurt, but he needs to talk too. When your child expresses feelings, reflecting back what you think he’s feeling also gives you the chance to understand and explore his feelings better.

If your child asks you a hard question, sometimes you won’t know how to answer, so give yourself time to think. Tell your child that you’ll get back to him if you can’t answer straight away. You could say, ‘’I don’t know, your Dad and I are still working that out. But I do know that you’ll get to spend time with each of us’’.

Be prepared to answer questions more than once because your child might keep thinking about an issue after you’ve finished talking. Setting up a regular time to talk can give your child a chance to discuss his concerns.

Routines help children feel secure, so keeping up routines can help your child cope with changes like separation and divorce. It’s also good to maintain rituals. What you say to him at bedtime or the way you wake your child in the morning are reassuring rituals that you can easily keep up.

If possible, try not to change big things like your child’s school. The same friends, teachers, surroundings, and routines all help. Try to identify small routines that really matter to your child, like a special book before bed or a regular play day with a friend. Let your child know that these things won’t change.

You can always adapt rituals or create new routines too. This might need to happen if there are changes to child care arrangements or your income. You could try working out some new routines together if your child is old enough.

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