• Emily Pringle

The Effects of Divorce or Separation on Your Children

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

Going through divorce can be intense and all too consuming, sometimes resulting in not enough focus being given to the impact on our children.

This guest blog is written by Colette, who runs Small Steps Counselling Service, where they support both parents and children when they need some extra support - thank you Colette.

For anyone who has experienced divorce or separation in a relationship, you know how painful, stressful and life-altering it can be. The process may be difficult, but necessary. When there is no way out and no way back, the only way is through, for the sake of your safety, mental health and quality of life.

Whether your divorce has been a friendly and amicable process, or has been a drawn-out anguish, it’s never easy to go through it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to thanks to Absolute Clarity Divorce and Separation Consultancy, who are on hand to help you every step of the way.

The signing of the paperwork, the removing of the rings and the possibility of returning to your maiden name can all feel overwhelming, but when there are children involved, these issues cannot take away from your sole focus; their well-being.

Children, not really understanding why their parents are no longer together, are not emotionally equipped to comprehend their parent’s sadness or anger. At Small Steps Counselling Service we often meet children and/or young people who have been emotionally affected by their parent’s divorce, who need guidance and help to maintain their innocence and happiness.

In my counselling room, I listen attentively to the needs of parents and their children and focus on the importance of understanding each other through communication. It can sometimes seem difficult to share your feelings with your children, as it can be overwhelming for them to share theirs. My aim at Small Steps Counselling Service is to create a safe and soothing space where everyone is free to speak openly, and where a child can share their fears and worries without judgement.

Throughout my years of child and adult counselling I have found that the divorce process can run smoothly where there is open communication. Divorce is often a positive solution to a severely negative problem, whether that be loss of love, infidelity or spousal or child abuse. However, it can be difficult for a child to understand your reasons for separation without knowing the truth, which when said in love, is an effective way of removing fear, blame and condemnation from their mind. They need to know it is not their fault, setting them free to go forward from childhood onward.

The following three anonymous examples from my counselling sessions show the potential impact on families where divorce is involved:

Example 1:

One of the parents suddenly finding themselves not part of the everyday life and decisions of their children, leaving the relationship difficult with communication difficulties, causing hurt to both that parent and the child(ren).

Impact: Continued damage to emotional well-being of parent and children long after divorce, damage to well-being of children as they continue to be affected by their parents arguing and behaviour.

Example 2:

A couple have been experiencing significant marital difficulties for a period. Their child is at a crucial point in life and needing stability for GCSE exams. One parent believes that they should stay together for the sake of their child, irrespective of the uncomfortable atmosphere at home and the clear ramifications on the other partner. Home life has become increasingly challenging and difficult, with the other parent sinking into a depressed state.

Impact: Emotional well-being of one of the couple negatively affected, potential risk to relationship of child when the truth is understood about her parent’s relationship, emotional needs of child not being met by depressed parent.

Example 3:

Example: An adult client presents with significant anxiety, having suffered with long term anxiety and depression. Client’s parents split up when client was 9 years old. The split had come has a complete shock as client had believed their family home was a happy one. Experienced significant trauma and loss when their mum left the family home and didn’t come back.

Impact: Loss of childhood, loss of adolescence, loss of parent, breakdown of parental relationship, difficulty maintaining relationships, difficulty trusting, ongoing emotional wellbeing needs of the adult client.

These examples demonstrate the importance of keeping the wellbeing of your child as a focus, as well as maintaining a truthful and loving relationship through mediation.

Where appropriate, I do refer clients to Emily at The Divorce Partner for continued support and guidance throughout the divorce process. I ensure cases like these remain in the minority and that my clients are treated with care, consideration and kindness.

It’s certainly true that divorce, if not amicable, can have a negative impact on a child in terms of their confidence levels, self-esteem, education and relationships. However, when the child feels surrounded by supportive, stable and trustworthy adults, the worry is free from their shoulders. As a newly single parent it is important to seek help from friends and family, as well as to reach out to a professional support network such as The Divorce Partner..

It is also vital to keep the channels of communication open with your children through family counselling, and I welcome you to seek professional help from Small Steps Counselling Service – or other such services.

Here are some tips for ways to positively impact your child’s life throughout the divorce process and thereafter.

- Be as honest as you can with your child about the situation, keeping all topics of discussion age appropriate. Do not provide details which they may find distressing or disturbing.

- Do not assume that your child is not aware of the situation, if they can hear or sense what is happening, their imagination may create an exaggerated version the truth, causing them to fear, worry or wrongly take the blame.

- Do not use your child as a tool to manipulate or control your separation.

- Do not divulge personal feelings which they are not emotionally mature enough to carry or understand.

- Set clear guidelines regarding appropriate behaviour and conversation around your child.

- Seek professional help if it feels impossible to keep the separation amicable.

- Instead of focusing on your feelings towards your ex-partner, keep your child’s wellbeing and safety as priority and your central focus.

- Ensure your child’s voice is heard by yourself and a professional if required.

If you would like further details on how Small Steps Counselling Service may be able to help you, please contact Colette at