Helping your child cope with separation and divorce

When parents split up, there will be many changes that happen. Children will feel anxious both during and after a separation, so it is important to think about ways you can help them.

This page explains things you can do to understand how your child might feel, how to help them and what to do if communication gets difficult between yourself and your child or your ex-partner.

How your child may feel after a separation

Signs that a child is finding their parents separation difficult to cope with can include:

  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Bedwetting
  • Blaming themselves
  • Staying out or not wanting to come home
  • Being distracted at school
  • Getting into trouble
  • Using drugs and/or alcohol
  • Anger towards you or others

What you can suggest they do

  • Talk to someone they trust from outside the home, like their teacher, a school counsellor or a family friend.
  • Take up a new interest, activity, or sport.
  • Keep in touch with their wider family like their cousins or grandparents.

Your child may also benefit from counselling either online or face to face, details can be found through the Family Information Service Directory.

How you can help your child after a separation

Most children find it hard after their parents separate. It is important that you don't involve them in any disagreements you may have. The video below shows how important this is:

You can also help your child by:

  • Telling them they are loved.
  • Telling them what happened is not their fault.
  • Listening to how they feel
  • Agreeing days/times they will see the parent they don't live with
  • Agreeing on rules and routine with your ex-partner
  • Avoiding criticising your ex-partner

This video provides advice about how to get on with an ex-partner:

Support when communication is difficult

Sometimes it is very hard to keep a good relationship or agree with an ex-partner. The following services may be able to help:

  • Relate have a section on their website dedicated to separation and divorce.
  • Surrey Family and Mediation Service can help separated parents to come to an agreement about matters affecting their children, such as times they see both parents.
  • Cafcass looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings and will advise the court on the best interests of the children.

You may also find it helpful to use some of these resources for reducing conflict between parents.

Where you can get help with contact

If there has been a significant breakdown in communication between you and your ex-partner, you may wish to access support to help your child spend time with both of you.

Child Contact Centres allow parents or family members to visit and spend quality time with a child that does not live with them

The National Association of Child Contact Centres explains the difference between supervised and supported visits.

Find your nearest Child Contact Centre can be used to find a local registered Child Contact Centre.

To use a Child Contact Centre, families usually need to be referred by a service or professional, such as Children's Services or a solicitor. Some centres will accept referrals from parents directly. You should phone the centre you are interested in using to check how you can be referred to them.

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