Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What Your Children May Be Feeling

The chart below shows the types of feelings identified in the Kids and Teens Guide of this website.

Children Teens
  • sad
  • mad
  • scared
  • worried
  • ashamed
  • guilty
  • confused
  • shock
  • confusion
  • guilt
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • relief
  • sadness
  • embarrassment
  • hope

There are some common feelings that you can help prevent. Your children will be very upset if they see you arguing. It’s important for your children’s well-being that you don’t argue with your ex-partner in front of the children. If you can’t avoid arguing, do it in private where there is no chance the children can hear. If privacy is an issue, you may have to minimize contact with the other parent to avoid arguments when the children are present.

Children can also get upset when they see one of their parents crying. They need to know that you are in control and coping with the situation. When you cry, your children may feel they have to take care of you and make you feel better. They should not have to face this added stress and responsibility. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cry – just make every effort to cry in private, away from the children.

Most children will miss the parent they’re not with. They need to feel free to contact their other parent easily and with no disapproval from you. Pictures and videos can be helpful as well.

Sometimes, children will feel different from friends and other families. They need reassurance that there are lots of different types of families. Let them know that you are still a family and always will be. Divorce and separation are so common that you can probably name other children they know whose parents are no longer together. You can suggest that they talk to children who have been through the same thing.

It’s very common for children to hope that their parents will get back together. In reality, this rarely happens. You need to be very clear with your children that the decision to separate or divorce has been made, and you will not be getting back together. False hope could prolong their adjustment period. Some children and teens also believe that if they behave perfectly and take on extra responsibilities, their parents will get back together. Make sure your children understand that they didn’t cause the separation or divorce and there’s nothing they can do to change it.

Children need to love and admire both of their parents and don’t want to choose between them. Although you probably wouldn’t come right out and ask the children to take sides, they may feel pressure to do so. Blaming or criticizing the other parent hurts the children. They need constant reassurance that both parents will continue to love them and that it’s okay to continue loving both parents.