Children can react in very different ways to separation and divorce.

The way children react to separation depends on a number of issues, including their age at the time and the degree of conflict or animosity between parents.

Separation or divorce is often a surprise for children and they often experience many of the same feelings as adults. Children can also grieve for a long time. Children may unconsciously grieve the loss of their parents' relationship for many years and maintain a fantasy that their parents will one day reunite. They may have been unaware of the problems their parents were having and may feel shocked and confused when the separation occurs. They may also feel insecure and worry whether the remaining parent will leave them as well.

Children have to deal with a range of changes and adjustments as a result of their parents separating: changes in family lifestyle, rules and discipline. There may also be a lot of other changes eg, new house, new school. Invariably a lot of adjustment is required. Although parents are often upset and confused at this time, it is most important to try to understand what your children are going through and to consider their feelings as well.

Separation is a stressful period for children. Their adjustment and recovery is enhanced when parents remain sensitive to their children's needs.

Support is available

Relationship Support Services

Counselling is available to parents and children to assist children after separation. This can include reading material to help parents, to increase their awareness of issues faced by children and how to respond to them.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is available to assist parents to resolve conflict that affects children and help to make appropriate arrangements for the care of children after separation; this includes development of parenting plans. Children can be interviewed as part of FDR to find out how the separation process is affecting them.

The Children's Contact Service makes it possible for contact arrangements to take place with a minimum of stress both for children and their parents. The Children's Contact Service provides a safe child-focussed environment in which changeovers and supervised visits can occur.

Relationship Support Courses

Relationships Australia offers Relationship Skills Courses and Parenting Courses that may be useful for parents at this time.