Talking to your child

Sometimes your child is the last to know about the break-up. Waiting until the last moment can seem like the right thing to do, but if one parent leaves suddenly this can be a huge shock and does not give them a chance to prepare for the changes that will happen. It can be tempting to put off telling them because you’re finding it difficult enough dealing with your own feelings and emotions, let alone theirs.

When you do tell your child try to answer questions as honestly and simply as you can and make sure you leave plenty of time, so that no one feels rushed.

Tell your child you’re getting separated or divorced and that you both still love him or her, and that the decision to separate was not his/ her fault.

If possible have both parents together to tell them that you care about their feelings and reassure them that it’s OK to feel upset. Say that you will all work together to feel better, but that this might take time; encourage them to be open about how they feel even if it is difficult for you to hear. They need to know that you will both continue to love them and stay involved in their lives and also that you feel sad about the break-up of the family and that they are likely to feel sad too. Also bear in mind that they might not want to talk to you about their feelings at this time, just let them know that you’ll be there when they do want to talk.

Talking to your child:

  1. Tell your child what’s happening and that it’s not his or her fault
  2. Tailor the discussion to your child’s age and understanding
  3. Let him or her know that there will be other times to talk
  4. Listen and talk to him or her about any feelings
  5. Don’t ask or expect your child to choose sides
  6. Try not to argue, make sarcastic remarks or lose your temper in front of your child.

Some of the questions that your child might want answers to are:

  • “Will I be able to see my grandparents?”
  • “Where will mum and dad live?”
  • “Can I still go to scouts/ youth club/ friends’ houses?”
  • “Who will I live with?”
  • “Do I have to change schools?”
  • “Where will my pet live?”
  • “What about the holiday we were going on?”


  • Most children will be OK and small changes in your behaviour can make a big difference.
  • Your relationship as a couple is over but your relationship as parents is not. Whilst you may have separated some time ago, talking to your child is still important and some of the tips may be something to think about doing now.

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