Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What your children may be feeling

The chart below shows the types of feelings identified in the Kids and Teens Guide of this website.

Children Teens
  • Sad
  • Mad
  • Scared
  • Worried
  • Ashamed
  • Guilty
  • Confused
  • Shock
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Relief
  • Sadness
  • Embarrassment
  • Hope

Some children may be very sensitive to the emotions of their parents. It is important for parents to find a way to balance their own emotional needs with those of their children, in an open and honest way. It is important to try not to argue with the other parent in front of the children and plan for time away from the children to discuss issues with your ex-partner. It may also be helpful for parents to consider drawing on their own adult support systems, including friends, families and professionals. Parents who are able to get the help and support they need may find it easier to ensure that their children also cope well.

Most children will miss the parent that they are not with. They need to feel free to contact their other parent easily and with no disapproval from you. Pictures and videos can be helpful as well.

Sometimes, children will feel different from friends and other families. They need reassurance that there are lots of different types of families. Let them know that you are still a family and always will be. With divorce and separation so common, you probably can point out other children they know whose parents are no longer together. You may want to suggest that they talk to some of these children who have been through the same thing.

It is very common for children to hope that their parents will get back together. In reality, this rarely happens. You need to be very clear with your children that the decision to separate or divorce has been made, and you will not be getting back together. False hope could prolong their adjustment period. Some children and teens also believe that if they behave perfectly and take on extra responsibilities, their parents will reconcile. Make sure your children understand that just as they did not cause the divorce, there is nothing they can do to change it.

Children need to love and admire both of their parents and don’t want to choose between them. Although you probably wouldn’t come right out and ask the children to take sides, they may feel pressure to do so. Blaming or criticizing the other parent hurts the children. They need constant reassurance that both parents will continue to love them and that it is okay to continue loving both parents.