What children need when you divorce

Parental separation is very much children’s business as well as their parents'.  While it may be best for the family, parental separation makes children unhappy.  Yes, children are “resilient”, but children are no more likely than adults to “get over it”.  Having their family split up is always deeply disruptive and usually sad for children of all ages, from birth to adulthood.

What makes a difference for children is the recognition that parents matter to children.  Relationships with both parents and caregivers are the foundation of children’s emotional wellbeing, and growth and development in all their respects.

Children who do best are those whose parents can put aside their adult to adult conflict and support each other to have the best relationship with their child as possible.  At times, this might seem unfair to one parent as the child’s needs change over time.  For example, young children are often more attached to their mothers, and need more time with her in their early lives.  Older children may prefer to stay at one parent’s according to their schedule, rather than their parents’ schedule.

It’s also vitally important to maintain your ex-partner as a good person in your child’s eyes, as much as possible.  This means not saying angry or mean things about them while your child is around and it does mean pointing out to your child all the good things about your co-parent, even if you can only find one.  To put down the child’s other parent is to put down a part of them, to take away a good parent figure, and to potentially split their loyalties between the two of you.

One thing is probable during the initial stages of separation.  That is that you will usually be intensely emotional during a long slow process.  You won’t have as much time or energy as you would like for anything else, including your children.  Some children find seeing a child and adolescent psychotherapist helpful because we can bear hard feelings and help children make sense of them.  The children won’t need to worry about hurting our feelings, and we provide a space for the child that is just for them to be themselves and understand what can be a complicated time.

For more information, please refer to 

Putting the Children First When You Divorce by Penelope Leach

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash


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