How to limit emotional trauma for children during separation and divorce.

How to limit emotional trauma for children during separation and divorce.

For everyone involved in a divorce or separation it can be a highly stressful and emotional time. Children can often feel like their whole world has been turned upside down and it can be difficult for them to get their head around the turn of events. In this article we look at divorce and separation from the children’s perspective and consider ways to limit the impact of this life-changing event.

Adapting to change following separation and divorce

A divorce and separation will change the dynamics of a household entirely and plenty of adjustments will need to be made; routines will change, living arrangements will alter and everything will feel unsettled for some time.

For parents it is inevitable that the time they have to spend with their children will change, in some instances time will be reduced, for others it will be increased. Depending on the how amicable the relationship is will affect the way the children’s time is divided. Trying to adapt from being all together under one roof, to limited visits and prescribed times can be troublesome and traumatic for all involved.

There is not a one-size fits all model that can be applied to separated families, an agreement that works for all involved parties will need to be devised that fits around existing commitments such as working hours and living restrictions.

The more amicable the relationship stays the greater flexibility there can be, arrangements can be adjusted when required and days and hours can be swapped around too. If arrangements cannot be agreed upon mutually, this is when mediation should be considered. Court should be the last resort.

As they get older, it is natural for Children to stop wanting to spend as much time with their parents. It can be difficult for separated parents not to take this personally, but it is normal and to be expected regardless of circumstances.

Limiting the emotional trauma for children during separation and divorce

Allow the children time to digest the news

The children should be told about a separation or divorce once the decision has been finalised. Children can become volatile and blame themselves for it and with emotions running high it is important that their feelings are not brushed under the carpet and ignored. Children deal with emotions differently; they may seem to be coping but the truth can be very different. Everyone will experience a rollercoaster of emotions similar to those of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance and there is no pattern to how much they will impact each individual or how long these feelings will last.

Provide the children with simple and honest explanations

Knowing the circumstances surrounding the split can help children to better understand the situation but they do not need to know every detail. Explaining that ‘we don’t get along anymore’ will suffice but remind the children that this doesn’t reflect on their relationship with either parent.

Remember to say “I Love You"

However simple it may sound, letting the children know that your love for them hasn’t changed despite the circumstances will provide comfort and reassurance.

Acknowledge the fact things are going to different  

Try to keep routines as normal as possible because this will create some stability. Explain what changes will need to be made and give the children the opportunity to process this information and gauge the impact it will have on their usual routines. It is equally important to reassure them that not everything will change, but certain changes are unavoidable.

Do not be critical of the other parent in the presence of the children

The children are not to blame for the separation and the decision is completely out of their control, therefore the children should not be dragged into any politics and must be kept away from any nastiness.  Entirely neutral, it is unfair to criticise the other parent in front of the children and their impartiality should be respected. Do not put them in compromising situations and under no circumstances used them as the means of communication. Children are easily influenced therefore they should not be encouraged to take sides and should not witness criticism of the other parent.

Respond truthfully to concerns and anxieties children present to you

Children will have lots of questions and it can take them time to find the courage to ask them and confront the situation. It will be a big deal for them when they finally decide to take action and this needs to be respected. If the answer to the question is unknown, gently say that you are unsure right now, but you will find out and it will be ok. Be sure to act up on this promise and provide them with an appropriate response.

Respecting the children’s wishes

Children are equally affected by separation and divorce, if not more so than the parents. The parents may have already come to terms with the decision and when the children are told, the announcement may be completely out of the blue causing confusion and shock. Therefore, it is extremely important to respect the wishes of the children at this time and concentrate on their wellbeing throughout. It is important to remember that it is often the simple things that mean the most.

  • For both parents to remain involved in their life;
  • Harmony – they do not want to see or hear you arguing;
  • Quality time with both parents, without the other parent resenting this;
  • Impartiality – they love both of their parents and don’t want to be made to take sides;
  • Integrity – if you do not have anything nice to say about the other, do not say anything at all.

Support from Lawson-West Solicitors

At Lawson-West, we have over 40 years’ experience dealing with relationship breakdowns, helping couples and families to overcome broken relationships to find resolution. If you would like help or advice now, or at any stage in the future, please feel free to contact Emma Piff.

Emma Piff

Emma Piff

Lawson-West Solicitors, 4 Dominus Way, Leicester, LE19 1RP

Direct Line: 0116 212 1037





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