Children and Separation

How to explain separation to children

How you explain separation and divorce to children is usually determined on their age, but regardless, children need to told and allowed to express their feelings.


kids on beach

As a parent it is important that you discuss the separation with your children regardless of age. Children of different ages will need different levels of information so make sure you explain the separation in ways they understand.

If the children are old enough, let them know that their views are important and while sometimes it is right to allow them to have input into the decisions that have been made, more often than not, it is best that you and the other parent make the decisions. Children should make age appropriate decisions and should not feel pressured to make decisions about where they live and how much time they spend with each parent. Children are often relieved to have these decisions made for them.

It is important to reassure your children that while you have fallen out of love or grown apart with each other, you will continue to care for them at different houses. We both still love you.

Children also need to know that they are in no way to blame for the separation and do not play the blame game. Children need to be allowed to have a relationship with both parents.

Set aside time to allow your children to ask questions and remember that children of different ages will need different levels of information. It is important to let your children have different feelings to yours.

Make sure significant adults in your children's lives know about the separation such as close relatives, teachers and friends so they can offer support to your children if needed.


How do I talk about the separation

Don't play the blame game

Explain new arrangements

Reassure your children

Tell significant others


Children's Feelings


Children experience feelings in their own way and their parent's separation is no different. As a parent it is important to help your children deal with the feelings raised by separation. Children may feel anxious and resentful that their life is going to change and they have no power to stop it. They may be worried about having to choose between parents and being abandoned. they may be confused or guilty that the separation is their fault. Others may feel relieved that the fighting has stopped.

Don't be afraid to ask your child how they are feeling. Remember that while it is important to show your child that their feelings matter, it is just as important to keep your own feelings aside when you are listening.



Resilience refers to the strength inside the child that helps them cope with change. However resilience does not just happen and your children will need help to cope and adjust to changes. You can help your child by managing conflict. Keep your children out of the conflict and being made to feel responsible for adult decisions. 

You can further help your child adjust and cope with changes brought on by separation, by focusing on parenting and your children's needs, by ensuring both parents remain involved, encourage positive relationships with extended family and keep up activities. 


Child Inclusive Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners

If you are about to, or have already commenced Family Dispute Resolution sessions and cannot agree with your former partner on "what is in the children's best interest" when formulation a parenting plan, then you may want to consider allowing the children to see the family dispute resolution practitioner. This can give you an insight into your children's thoughts and their developmental needs which can then be reflected in your parenting plan. It may also assist in reducing parental conflict. While these sessions are not always appropriate and strict conditions apply, it is appropriate when children have not already been asked to tell their stories and thoughts. In these sessions children can talk about how they are managing and what is important to them. At no time is a child put in a position of having to make decisions. 

  • If you have concerns about your children's behaviour, or feel they are not coping with the separation, talk to the other parent about your concerns, or seek advice from your child's school or from a specialist service.