Going through a divorce or separation doesn’t just affect the couple involved. If you have children, they will also go through a grieving process (read more about the grief cycle many parents go through here).

Here are some tips to help you help your children to manage their emotions after your divorce or separation:

  • Remember that your separation will have a big impact on your children too – even if they seem fine. Often parents will come into mediation saying that their children are coping well and don’t seem too badly impacted by the separation. If the children appear fine, that is a relief and it is easy to leave it there. Instead, try to remember that there may be a lot going on for your children, too. Just pay attention. Nothing more. 
  • Don’t lean on them. Parents often lean on their children for emotional support during a break-up and this is always a bad idea, even if your children are almost adult. They need to see you coping well so that they can cope, too.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen! If your children want to talk, be ready to listen. Often the talking will come at an inconvenient time and it is easy to say, ‘not now, but happy to talk later’. That might be enough to close down the talking. So, try and listen whenever it is needed. 
  • Just listen – nothing more. You don’t need to fix it, just understand where your child is coming from and show that you understand and care.
  • Don’t worry if they don’t want to talk. Just be available if they do. Don’t cross-question them about the other parent. Don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to. Don’t react to what they tell you (this can be hard if they tell you something hurtful about the other parent). Remember that they may be feeling differently about the situation to how you feel and that’s ok. Keep their confidence (obviously if it is safe to do so). Sometimes it is easier to chat when you are doing something else with your children, for example baking a cake, kicking a football or walking to the park.
  • Practise your own good self-care and process your own emotions away from the children. In this way, you can be more available for them when they need you.
  • Think about your children’s care in the same way you think about your own self-care. Are they getting enough sleep? Are they eating healthily? Are they getting enough fresh air and exercise? Are they seeing their friends enough? Self-care applies in the same way to your children as it does to you.
  • There are plenty of good children’s books for all ages about divorce and separation. This can be a good way to help you to talk to your children and also for them to process their emotions.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, remember just to do your best. That is plenty good enough.
How to help your children manage their emotions after divorce or separation
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