Children in the middle
of separation and divorce

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

child with head in hands - children in the middle of conflict

Facing a divorce or separation with children involved can be a heartbreaking prospect. But - the negative effects of divorce on children in the middle of the conflict can be significantly contained if you really put their needs first

And I'm here to help you do just that.

My professional experience has shown me that considerate parents are desperate to minimise the negative effects of separation and divorce on their children. They'll normally have explored every way to try and resolve their problems first.

If you have children and you're facing a separation or divorce, I'd really urge you to go for couples counselling, if you haven't already done so.

I know the idea may scare you, but I promise you it'll give you some comfort to know that you've done all you can to prevent your children having to go through the pain of a family break-up.

You may be painfully reminded of your own family break-up. But you can draw on this experience when you're considering what you can do to help your children get through this difficult time.

If you're here, because you're considering separation or divorce, but aren't really certain, then my Relationship Compatibility Test may help you make the right decision.

Effects of divorce on children in the middle of the conflict

First of all, much depends on was happening before your decision to separate.

  • How long have you been questioning your relationship compatibility?
  • To what extent did your children notice negative feelings between the two of you?
  • Did they witness the arguments?
  • Were they used as pawns?

When the decision is made to end the marriage or relationship it really matters how you tell your children about what's going to happen from that point on. Even at that very early stage there is real potential to get it wrong - with possibly lasting consequences for both your children and yourselves.

Your children may - in the first couple of months - feel rejected, insecure, guilty, confused and angry... probably much like you do too.

They may become withdrawn, difficult or unnaturally well behaved - or they may swing between all three. Their school work might be affected and they may be depressed.

Of course, you and your husband or partner may be feeling terribly down too. I really get that, and unfortunately it's to be expected. However, if you're becoming really depressed, I'd love you to do something about that sooner rather than later. Otherwise it's going to be so much harder for you all and the situation is already difficult enough.

Have a look at the HypnosisDownloads depression treatments. They're a really gentle way to get you on the road to recovery.

Don't allow your children to be in the middle of the conflict

Your children are likely to worry about who they're going to live with, and may feel in a double bind - not wanting to let either one of you down. Of course much depends on how old they are, with teenagers being the most likely to be assertive about who they want to live with.  

But whatever their age - children in the middle of the separation and divorce feel torn and you mustn't let them feel that they have to take sides.

I know how torn you must feel at times, you're in such a difficult situation right now and I suspect you're worn out with it all.

So, here's my suggestion - do take a little time to talk with an online counsellor specialised in break-ups. You can do so right from my site.

Allow them to express their hurt and anger if they want to

Your children may or may not appreciate opportunities to express how they're feeling, depending on their age, nature and the relationship you and you partner have with them.

You may find out how they're feeling either by instigating a conversation, or by discovering or overhearing something almost 'by accident'. Either way, you may hear that they:

  • feel angry with you or your partner, or blame one of both of you
  • miss the other parent
  • want to know if and when the two of you are getting back together
  • don't feel they have a ‘normal’ family

I know that none of these things will be easy for you to hear. However, with your support, most of what they feel will eventually fade and all of you should feel better in time.

Progress and outcome will greatly depend on how you deal with the break-up. Don't allow your children to be in the middle of arguments - they'll feel pushed into having to take either your or your partner's side. 

Is it really too late to save your marriage?

Of course your children will never know (and probably shouldn't know) the detail of what's gone wrong, which means that they may well blame either you or your partner. But this is one of those times when we just have to say, 'so be it'.

I'm sure you'll agree with me that it's therefore really worth doing all you can to save your marriage (unless you're in an abusive relationship) particularly since second marriages have a much higher chance of ending in divorce. The grass really isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.

Even if it's only you that wants to work on your relationship and you think your partner has all but given up, I still recommend you have a look at my page How to Save my Marriage or Relationship.

If by any chance your partner's just told you: "It is over", then do go over to my page to find out How to Have the Best Chance of a Reconciliation.

What do your children need to hear?

Hop over the Part 2 for my advice on the best way to reassure and support your children, and for my list of strategies to help you minimise the effects of separation on your children.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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Images courtesy of: Chris Taylor and Anthony Pierro