The trickiest situation of all is one involving children. We all struggle at the best of times to reassure ourselves that we are doing the best by our kids, but when we inflict divorce or a break up on them, whatever the circumstances, we feel like we have let them down in the worst way possible. If we lie awake at night, worrying about the future, where we will live, what our new ‘normal’ will be, imagine how they feel. Divorce or separation shakes their very foundations and we have to reassure them when we can barely reassure ourselves.  Many divorcing parents struggle to identify the best approach for the children, we all know it is a rollercoaster at the best of times, but when we throw children into the mix, it becomes a minefield of emotional management.

However your marriage ended, it is hard, but if it ended acrimoniously it can be difficult to know how best to protect your children – you possibly hate your ex with every fibre of your being, but it is all about thinking long and hard about the consequences of your actions on your children in the long run. The one thing you both need to be clear about is not using your children as weapons – that is the obvious thing to do if you want to emotionally wound, but the person you are hurting most is your child. I am a big believer that divorce does not have to damage your child, however this will depend hugely on the behaviour of the parents.

You have to remember to see the situation from your child’s point of view; children often worry that they will be abandoned by one of their parents in the divorce or separation process and that they will lose them from 

their lives. Reassure them as a couple that you will always be there for them. It is about telling them you will be there and you will always come back, whatever happens.

  1. Choose your timing:

Make sure you are certain that you cannot save your relationship before you tell your children. If you are just considering having time apart then keep it to yourselves, there is no need to involve the children until you are completely sure there is no way back. There is never a good time to tell your children but make sure you do it when they have time to take it in – not just before school or something important. They will need time to discuss how they feel and they will definitely want a hug and some proper time to digest things.

  1. Agree on what you will say:

Make sure you are both giving the same message and you can deliver it together. Do not contradict each other or argue whilst you are telling the children.

  1. Tell them as a couple:

Do this so that they can see that, even though the marriage is over and you won’t be living together anymore, you will both still be there for them, just as before. If they see you like that then they will believe it.

  1. Don’t play the blame game:

Be fair in front of them and don’t allocate blame for your break-up or try to get them to take sides. Never ask them to choose where they want to live – the aim is to protect them from any unnecessary emotional damage.

  1. Reassure the children:

Make it very clear it isn’t their fault and that they couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. Reassurance and plenty of cuddles are vital here.

  1. Don’t go into details:

Keep it very simple, just the basic facts. This will be a lot for the children to take in so don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary information and don’t tell them the ins and outs of what happened. Give them time to take it all in and don’t bombard them

  1. Be honest and real:

Don’t make promises you cannot keep just to lessen the impact (no rash promises of holidays or ponies!) Stick to the facts and don’t try and gloss over the fact there will be changes coming and that they might take a while to adjust. Prepare them for how the whole family will cope with these changes and that the divorce won’t change the way you both love them or the fact that you will be there for them.

  1. Don’t cry:

Children look to adults for their lead, particularly in situations like this, and make sure you are not asking your child to comfort you. They need to understand that, whilst this hasn’t been an easy decision for you, it is definitely the right one. Crying will undermine your resolve and just make your child worry about you, and that’s not their role.


  • Don’t use them as a ‘go-between’ for the two of you. If you have a question for your ex, ask him, don’t send a message via the children so they have to report back.
  • Don’t make any drastic changes to their routine, they will need stability more than ever and will want everything to stay the same where it can.
  • Discuss all divorce matters in another room and don’t let them join in or ask them to get involved.
  • Do not make them the ‘ man’ or ‘ woman’ of the house now that your ex has gone – it is too much pressure and takes away the carefree nature of being at home.
  • Do not fight in front of the children or disagree on fundamental issues like access time. Definitely don’t bad mouth your ex to your children, or talk about your ex to friends in front of the children.
  • Tell the school what is happening so they have other adults to talk to and arrange for counselling if you think it will help.
  • Keep reassuring them, as they will need to hear this regularly and if plans are made, stick to them. Routine and promise keeping is key.