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Supporting your child through parent or carer separation

Parent talking to child
  • Date published:

  • Author: oliverkyle

Relationships break down for many different reasons, this can be difficult for you, but it is important to support your child through this too.

We still love you

Make sure that your child knows that, although you are separating, both of you still love your them no matter what. You could do this by spending quality time with your child, giving cuddles, or simply by just telling them that you love them.

Working as a team

You or your partner may be feeling hurt by one another during a separation, but it’s important to work together to support your child to process the change.

Some tips for this are:

  • Make sure heated conversations are not taking place with your child around
  • stay civil with one another in front of your child
  • If you can, sit down with your child together to explain that you will be separating
  • Keep it appropriate– always be honest with your child, but make sure that you only discuss the facts without passing on personal opinions/feelings

Setting a good example

Your child looks up to you both as their role models. Making sure that you both set a good example helps your child to understand that it will be ok.

Good communication is important around custody or visiting arrangements.

It can help to sit down together and set out a clear plan; remember this needs to be what is best for your child.

Once you have set your plan, keep to this as much as possible as children respond well to routine and consistency.

My child doesn’t want to go to the other parent’s house

Sometimes, children may not want to go to their planned visit to the other parent/carer. This is ok – children’s feelings change on a day to day basis and this is completely normal.

It’s important to talk about their feelings on this and why they don’t want to go on their visit. Encourage your child to visit the other parent/carer by staying positive and reassuring them.

Hear your child’s voice and listen. It could be that the problem is easily resolved and then your child will be happy to go for their visit. It could also be that your child just wants to stay at home this time. Whatever the reason, take your child’s wants and needs on board whilst reassuring them that it is ok.

It’s ok to feel upset

Separations between families are hard for everyone. Make sure that you reassure your child that it is ok to feel upset and encourage them to be open about those feelings.

Young child being comforted by mum

Getting support for your child

Children may find it difficult to process a separation between parents/carers and might struggle to deal with the emotions that come with it.

You can support your child by:

  • Spending regular quality time with them
  • Encouraging them to discuss their worries and feelings with you
  • Accessing your local school nursing service for emotional health support for your child

Getting support for yourself

Making sure that you get some support for yourself will help you to feel in a better frame of mind to support your child.

This could be:

  • Talking to a family member or close friend about how you feel
  • Taking some time out for yourself, for example asking a family member to babysit for a couple of hours
  • Accessing your local talking therapies service for some counselling


There are lots of books that you can read with your child to support them to understand and process a separation.

Some examples are:

  • Two Homes by Claire Masurel
  • Living With Mum and Living With Dad: My Two Homes by Melanie Walsh
  • More People to Love Me by Mo O’Hara

For more books around divorce/separation, take a look at the options here.

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