Helping your children cope during separation

When parents split up, children often:

  • feel confused and insecure because they don’t understand what’s happening
  • blame themselves
  • cover up their emotions.

You might think your children are OK because you’re too busy just coping to notice what’s going on for them.


  • this is a time of major change for them as well as for you
  • children don’t usually have the skills to understand when they need help
  • each child has different needs.

Talking with your children is important – keep communication as open as you can.

  • Find times for your children to be alone with you without distractions (car trips can be good).
  • Ask them if they have questions about what’s happening.
  • Ask them how they feel. Listen to your children. Show them you are listening.

How can I make sure our children have a say?

  • Work as a team with your children to make the best possible arrangements for their future.
  • Always ask for their views.
  • Children older than 11 are especially likely to have views about the future.
  • Don’t pressure your children to make choices.

Take your children’s views into account

If your children do tell you what they want:

  • try to fit their wishes into the plans
  • if this can’t be done, explain why.

Reassure your children

Tell your children many times:

  • it isn’t their fault that you’re splitting up
  • you still love them even though you’ve split up
  • splitting up is common
  • Be affectionate – give your children lots of hugs
  • Just listen – don’t feel you have to fix their feelings. It’s painful and you can’t change that.
  • By listening, you can help them feel understood.