Talking to your children about separation

Parents should tell their children that they are separating. Children don’t usually need to know the reasons why the separation is happening. Remember to keep it simple, and keep it centred on the basic, objective facts.

Try to make your discussions about the future. You can describe the arrangements for future parenting and explain how you think it might make things better. Reassure them about the love of both their parents. 

Research shows that exposure to separation issues and conflict is bad for the development of children. The less exposure children have to conflict and the details of their parents’ relationship breakdown, the better they do.

Tips for talking to children about separation

  • Make it easy for your kids to love both parents.
  • Tell them they are loved. 
  • Tell the truth.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Don’t criticise or insult the other parent in front of the kids.
  • Make sure your children know that the separation has nothing to do with them.
  • Focus your conversation on the future.

Things to avoid

Using children as messengers

Never use children as messengers between parents. It increases their exposure to the separation and teaches them that adults cannot talk honestly or directly to each other.


Using children to get information

Asking a child to report on the other parent is destructive – it is using a child for your own ends.


Talking negatively about the other parent

Name-calling and anger between parents have a destructive effect on children.


Choosing sides

‘I still love them but they don’t love me’ or  ‘I want to keep the house for the kids but she wants to sell it’ – statements like these put pressure on your children to take sides.


Competing Activities

Try to avoid activities that compete with each other. It spoils children’s pleasure in being with either parent.


We provide support to families going through a separation, this includes Children and Family Counselling and Family Dispute Resolution.

Information for this article was sourced from Family Relationships Online:
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