Families Change
Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What are my children feeling?

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Your children are going to feel many different emotions.  They can come and go, and sometimes they will be feeling more than one emotion at the same time. They may feel

  • sad,
  • afraid or anxious,
  • angry,
  • worried,
  • ashamed or embarrassed,
  • shock,
  • confused,
  • guilty,
  • relieved, or
  • hopeful.

Here are some of the most common things that might upset your children:

  1. Arguing: Having arguments with your ex-partner in front of the children can really hurt and confuse them. If possible, you and your ex should agree to avoid arguing in front of your children. If you can’t do this, you might have to avoid talking with the other parent when the children are around.
  2. Seeing you or their other parent crying: It’s ok to cry! You’re going through a lot, and crying is a normal way to react. Keep in mind that your children are dealing with a lot, too. Seeing you cry might make your children feel like they have to take care of you or try to make you feel better. This really isn’t something they should have to do.
  3. Missing the parent they aren’t with: It’s normal for children to miss their other parent. They aren’t used to not seeing them every day. Don’t discourage your kids from missing their other parent. Give your kids pictures of their other parent, and let them know that they can call or email them any time. Try to help them stay in touch!
  4. Feeling different from other kids: Your children might feel different from their friends because of all the changes happening in their lives. They might feel like they don’t have a normal family or like they’re losing their family. Let them know that you’re still a family and always will be. They probably have friends with divorced parents. You can point this out to help them feel more normal. You can also suggest that they talk to their friends about what they’re feeling.
  5. Hoping that you’ll get back together: It’s normal for kids to hope their parents will get back together, but it doesn’t usually happen. Be very clear with your children that you’ve decided to get a divorce and won’t be getting back together. If your kids think you might get back together, it will just make it harder for them to adjust. Sometimes kids think that if they do everything right, you’ll get back together. Make sure you let them know that your divorce isn’t their fault, and that there’s nothing they can do to change it.
  6. Feeling like they have to choose: Your children don’t want to have to choose between you and your ex. They love both of you, and they need to know that you both love them. Don’t put your kids in a situation where they feel like they have to take sides or choose between you.