What do children really care about when parents separate?

If you have clients separating with children, they may have concerns about how the separation will affect them. The reality is, children often have a hundred different questions about what their lives will be like when their parents separate. But they’re not always the questions you might guess. While your clients are thinking about the logistics and practicalities of a divorce - who’s going to be the primary carer, who needs to provide maintenance payments, will the family home be sold - the children aren’t usually thinking about all of that. Fundamentally, they’ll have concerns about what might change, and if they’ll be getting the love and attention they need during and after the divorce.

Of course, it’s natural for divorcing parents to get caught up in the stress of proceedings, and it can be difficult to consider what their children are thinking about on top of that. We’ve come up with some of the main things children really care about when their parents separate as a good starting point to help ease client concerns.

Love from both parents

Children need a relationship with both of their parents, even if those relationships look different. Both the resident and the non-resident parent need to show their children that their divorce won’t change how much they love and care for them.

In some cases, children might feel partly responsible for the breakdown of their parent’s marriage. If their parents are too distracted by the legalities of divorce proceedings, they might not be paying enough attention to their children, which can affirm this sense of guilt. Children need to be reassured that it’s not their fault. The change doesn’t affect the amount of love and care they’ll receive or will have in future. Ensure they’re comfortable, safe and happy. This will also help children adjust more quickly to the change.

Being listened to

A part of showing that love and care is listening to what their children have to say, and trying to understand their thoughts and feelings. Divorcing parents is a big adjustment for the children, and they’ll be experiencing all sorts of emotions. While every child deals with those emotions differently, it’s important that they know they have someone to talk to when they need it. It’ll reassure them they haven’t been forgotten about, even if their parents are going through a stressful time.

It’ll also give them a sense of belonging in the family, knowing their feelings and opinions matter. Not to mention, it can help them feel more in control of the situation, which is important as they’re adjusting to a new life. We talk more about the importance of listening to children here.

The little things aren’t that little

Children want to be kept in the loop, particularly in how the change will affect their way of living. Will they have to move house or school? How often will they see the non-resident parent, and where? Who will pick them up from school? Will they still be able to be part of the clubs they were in before?

The day-to-day things that make up a child’s life, while they might seem small in the grand scheme of a divorce, are really not that small at all. In fact, for the children, a lot of their questions will centre around the day-to-day. It comes back to that sense of control and adjustment. Introducing them to a new routine will take time and practise, but prioritising it will help them with the transition.

At Starting Point, we always put the children first. No matter the circumstances, it’s our job to make sure children have a safe, comfortable space to foster positive relationships with their parents and carers. For more details about our services, get in touch with us today.