When you’re getting divorced or separating with your partner and your children don’t know about it, you ask yourself when is a good time to tell them, how do you tell them and what their reaction would be when you tell them.

They will probably react worse than you realise. Some of the questions they’ll be asking themselves are “Why won’t my parents talk to me? Where will I live? Where will I go to school? Is all this my fault?”

It is important that everyone in the family’s voice is heard and allowed to express their feelings as how people feel may vary from person to person. In times of change, remember the ones who are constant in your family’s lives – grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends – can be a strong emotional support.

Children and young people often don’t know how to express their feelings, and as a result can display quite a challenging behaviour at times.

It is important to take time to look past the behaviour to try to find out the underlying cause of their unhappiness, in order to provide them with the help that they need.

How to manage conflict and changes:

  • Communication is of vital importance when sorting out any differences within the family. If your children refuse to talk to you, there may be another adult they can talk to.
  • Try to have a consistent approach and set age appropriate boundaries, but also listen to what your child is saying and how they are feeling.
  • Listen carefully and let the child know you have understood what they have said and know how are they feeling.
  • Let everyone have his/her say and be prepared to compromise if possible.
  • Even though you may not all agree, you can still try to find a way to resolve any disagreements without shouting or smacking. Children can learn a lot from the way conflict is resolved in their family.

The impact of Separation and divorce on children

The impact of divorce and separation on children is a major concern for many parents. Although there’s children who adjust to the circumstances, there are many others who find it very hard.

For those involved, it is vitally important, if possible, that communication between parents is normal for the sake of the child. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone who can act as a mediator in difficult circumstances.

Within all families, whether you are trying to bring up your children with a partner or on your own, good communication is essential whatever the circumstances.

Helping your children:

  • Remember the importance of listening to your children
  • Respect their feelings and keep in mind that they may be different from yours
  • Emphasise that what is happening is not their fault
  • Expect a change in behaviour for a time
  • Reassure them that you haven’t changed your feelings towards them
  • Keep them informed on the current situation
  • Involve them in family decisions but not in arguments
  • Involve outside agencies for additional support and mediation (if appropriate)
  • Inform the school your child studies at about the separation/divorce
  • Find support for yourself as well


You can visit www.cafcass.gov.uk for more information on how you can help your child through a divorce.

Fiona Pawsey
Article by Fiona Pawsey
Fiona has been practicing family law for over 12 years initially as a Legal Executive and then subsequently as a solicitor. Fiona is a trained collaborative solicitor, as well as a Resolution Panel Member. She is experienced in advising clients going through divorce or family breakdown, including financial settlements and disputes over children, in particular complex contact and residence issues. In addition to family law Fiona also deals with litigation, property transactions and residential Conveyancing

Leave a comment