Helping Your Child Through a Separation


Parenting NI has been a leading organisation for supporting parents in Northern Ireland since 1979. 

In a guest blog for Life Law NI, Emma Lyttle from Parenting NI provides us with some information on how parents can help their child(ren) through relationship breakdown.


In the UK, it is estimated that more that 40% of marriages will ultimately end in divorce, leaving more than one in four children experiencing divorce by the age of 16*

All parents will be concerned about the effect any separation will have on their children.  Even if both parents mutually agreed on the separation, it will still be difficult to cope.  Separation is an upsetting and confusing time for parents and children.  It can be a time of stress and anxiety with voices being raised and feelings reaching boiling point.

Regardless of a child’s age, they are likely to experience similar emotions to their parents, although express them in a different way.  Some of the reactions to separation children may experience include feeling angry, guilty, a conflict of loyalty between their parents, denial, and mood changes, tantrums, health or school problems.

Talking with your children is vital during the separation process.  Children need to be told where each parent will be living, how contact will be maintained with their non-resident parent, and that mummy and daddy still love them and will continue to be there for them. 

Having access to both parents and trying to maintain a routine will help your children to adapt to the initial changes.  Acknowledge that it is okay to feel sad or angry and help your children to find healthy ways to express their emotions.  Reassure your children that the separation is not their fault and explain that they cannot fix or change what is happening in the family.  Above all, try to shield your children from any arguments as children experience parental conflict as stressful and upsetting.

The whole family is going to need time to adapt to the changes so try to take one step at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself.  Talking about your feelings with a family member or friend, whom you trust, will help to reduce your feelings of isolation.





*Information taken from Office of National Statistics