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


Parenting NI

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 about the organisation and the services they provide:-


Since being established in 1979, Parenting NI has become a leading parenting support organisation committed to delivering high quality services to parents throughout Northern Ireland.

At Parenting NI, our primary aim is to contribute to the well-being of children and young people by supporting parents and to influence policy and practice on parenting.

Our values are underpinned in all of Parenting NI projects, including the following:

  • The safety and well-being of children is paramount
  • Parenting should be valued
  • Parents need to be supported
  • Support services for parents should be universal and accessible
  • Parents have the right to expect high quality services
  • All families should be valued equally, regardless of their structure or background
  • Parents and young people are entitled to be able to talk confidentially
  • Parents have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and not to be judged
  • Parents have the right to expect organisations with whom they are involved to be open, honest and accountable
  • The rights and responsibilities of parents, children and young people should be protected and respected

The Work We Do

All of Parenting NI services have been developed based on the needs of parents.  Our focus is primarily on prevention and early intervention in order to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people.

At Parenting NI, we envisage a future where parenting is highly valued, and family members receive the support and resources they need to provide a happy and safe environment in which children and young people can achieve their potential.

As an organisation, we try to do achieve this goal in many ways and by providing a number of services:-
  1. Parenting Helpline

The Parenting NI Helpline offers a free phone service based in Northern Ireland. Our helpline team have been specifically chosen to ensure that all callers receive the most appropriate support and guidance in relation to family issues.  The Parenting NI helpline team also have knowledge of local services that are available regionally to ensure that all families with any additional needs can access other support if required.  Call us on 0808 8010 722 to avail of our helpline service.

  1. Counselling Service

 Our Parent’s Counselling service focuses on finding realistic, manageable solutions for you and your family, empowering you to meet your own needs and goals. Parent’s Counselling offers a confidential, professional service, in a warm, friendly atmosphere, where you will be listened to and given space to explore any issues relating to parenting.

  1. Programmes & Workshops

We offer a range of parenting programmes throughout Northern Ireland to help parents build on their skills and knowledge about parenting.

We aim to keep our programmes fun and interactive through participation and group work, in a setting where everyone feels safe and supported. Participating in one of our programmes is also a great way to meet other parents experiencing similar issues, build confidence and improve family relationships.

  1. Parental Participation

We believe that it is important that parents have their voices heard.  We have been engaging parents through consultation since 1999. The consultation process is an important opportunity for parents to share their views. In consulting with parents, it enables our organisation to highlight the key issues and needs of parents in order to influence policy, planning and service delivery.

For more information on Parenting NI, visit our website on WWW.PARENTINGNI.ORG