Family breakdown affects parents and children differently. For parents, separation signals the end of their relationship and a change to their role as a parent. While children will usually continue a relationship with both parents, there are often big changes and strong feelings. 

While some kids will talk about their feelings, most will show how they feel through their behaviour. Some children become more anxious or angry. Others try really hard to be good because they’re worried about their parents or concerned that the parent who has care of them will leave them too. These are reactions to the sense of loss and powerlessness that most children feel when their parents separate. 

Here are some tips to help children cope during a family breakdown:

  • Reassure your children that even though you will no longer live together as a family, they will not lose your love and care. 

  • Once living arrangements have been discussed, explain to your children where they will be living. If they will spend some time with each parent, explain how this will work in practical terms – when and how they will travel between the two homes, where they will sleep and how they will get to school.

  • Try to maintain your children’s normal routines as much as possible. When routines need to change, try to make the transition as smooth as possible. This helps children feel safer.

  • Provide extra support after your children return from a visit with their other parent to help them settle in.

  • If you start a new relationship, recognise that it’s likely to be a difficult time for your children. Counselling can help to make the transition easier for children and adults.

You may like to read more about supporting children's mental health when parents separate.