Helping Children through a Separation or Divorce

Helping Children through a Separation or Divorce

A separation or divorce can be a difficult experience for the whole family. If you and your partner are considering a separation or divorce, you can make a plan for how you will go through the process. As you make a plan or list of steps you need to take, be sure to consider strategies for helping your children through a separation or divorce.

The first thing to consider is the safety of your children and yourself. If you feel like your home or partner may not be safe, then find a safe place to seek the support and the advice of a professional counselor or legal advisor. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit to search for a shelter near you. If you are in a a safe situation, there are several ways you can help your child through the separation or divorce. Start by making sure you are staying healthy by getting enough sleep and exercise, and eating healthy. It will be easier for you to help your children if you have take care of your own needs first.

After you and your partner have made the decision to separate or divorce, sit down and talk to your children about it. If possible, try to have this conversation together. Explain to your children that changes are coming, but you want them to know they are loved, safe and will be cared for not matter what. Talk to your children about what they can expect and assure them that the separation is not because of anything they did. You can also use the following children’s books to help guide your conversations and discuss feelings.

* Always Mom, Forever Dad by Joanna Rowland and Penny Weber

* Dinosaurs Divorce by Laurie Krasney Brown and Marc Brown

* Divorce is the Worst by Anastasia Higgins-Botham

* Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and Lisa Brown

* Living with Mom and Living with Dad by Melanie Walsh

* My Family’s Changing by Pat Thomas

* The Enormous Suitcase by Robert Musch

* Two Homes by Claire Masurel

Keep things as consistent as possible. Continue with your regular routine for school, bedtime, homework, behavior management, etc. If you need to make a change in routine, discuss it with your children in advance so they are prepared. If you are not able to stay in the same home, explain that you need to move to a new home and involve the children by asking what kind of home characteristics are important to them.

*Avoid involving your children in the separation or divorce proceedings and do not rely on your child for your emotional support.

*It is important to avoid adult conversations or fighting in front of children.

*Schedule private meeting times with your partner to discuss separation or divorce arrangements.

*How children react to separation or divorce depends on their age, experience, and family situation. Be prepared to answer questions and be patient. This is a life changing event and the effects will not immediately disappear.

*Check in with your children regularly to see how they are feeling and what they need.

Please take a look at the following sites as well for more information:

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