What Do Children Need to Hear?


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About this information

It can be difficult for children when their parents separate. During or after a separation, parents often worry about how it will affect their children, and many express concern about saying or doing something that makes things worse.

This information will give you some ideas about what your children need to hear to help them cope with the changes.


Quote MarksIt is important that your children know that they are not at fault.

It wasn’t your fault!

Your children need to hear that it was nothing that they did or said that led to the decision to separate. Children can sometimes take on the responsibility for the separation, so it is important that they know that it was an adult decision and that they are not at fault.

We have decided that…

Your children need to hear an explanation about the decision that you and their Mum or Dad have made. How you explain will depend upon their age and emotional maturity. Although it is important to be honest, your children do not need to hear the details of adult issues or be put in a position of choosing who is in the right.

Where possible, it can be helpful to speak to your children together with their other parent. If this isn’t possible then try to agree what you are both going to say so that your children get similar messages.

We still feel the same way about you

Your children need to hear that, although the feelings that you and their Mum or Dad have towards each other have changed, the feelings that you both have for them have not. Let them know that you both still love them and that it is OK for your children to still love you and their other parent.

I’m OK

Your children need to hear that, although it is difficult at the moment, you and their other parent are going to be OK. They need to know that you are both going to be able to look after yourselves and, in turn, still be their Mum or Dad.


Quote MarksLet your children know that it is OK for them to still love you and their other parent.

Father and kids

The plan is…

Your children need to hear that you and their other parent have thought about what is going to happen.

  • Where are they going to stay?
  • What about school?
  • What about their grandparents or other family members and their friends?
  • What can stay the same?
  • What is going to be different?
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They also need to hear that you and their other parent have thought about how they will continue to spend time with each of you.

  • When will they see each of you?
  • How will they be able to get in touch with each of you when you are not with them?
quote

Outline the plan for them and take their questions into consideration.

You might not know all the answers immediately – be honest about this and explain that you will let them know as soon as you can.

What do you think about…?

Your children need to hear that you want to know their views about the separation. Let them know that you don’t want them to make decisions but you do want to take their views into account when you and their other parent make plans.

How do you feel about…?

Your children also need to hear that you are interested in how they feel. It is OK to feel angry or sad or relieved, or anything else. You are there to LISTEN and help.


Quote MarksLet your children know that you don’t want them to make decisions but you do want to take their views into account

We will work together…

Your children need to hear that you and their other parent will work together, if at all possible, to make things OK for them. It helps if you and their other parent talk respectfully and resolve disagreements calmly. Although you might not get everything right, let them know that you will try your best to make the situation easier for them.


Quote MarksIt helps if you and their other parent talk respectfully and resolve disagreements calmly.

Mother and son

It takes time

Your children need to hear that you realise that the changes may take some time for everyone to get used to. They may need time to think about things. Let them know that this is OK and you will both be there for them when they want to talk.


Quote MarksYour children may need time to think about things.

Support

Sometimes parents can find it difficult to make arrangements for their children with their ex-partner or talk about parenting issues. They might be finding it difficult to come to terms with the breakdown of their relationship or they might be worried about the impact of separation on their children. It’s OK to ask for help.

Relationships Scotland’s network of Member Services supports individuals, couples and families experiencing conflict and relationship difficulties across all of mainland and island Scotland. This support includes family mediation, counselling, child contact centres and other family support services.

Some Services also provide support directly to children and young people affected by separation such as meeting with children and young people as part of the mediation process, children and young people’s counselling and children’s groups

Safety

Some of these ideas may not fit your situation if you have concerns about your own safety or the safety of your children.

This might be due to violence or abuse, alcohol or substance misuse, or other issues. Professional advice and help is recommended, see resources on our website www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/family-support.

Continue reading


The Messages for Parents booklet is available to download as a PDF document

Download now


References

  • McGhee, C. (2011). Parenting Apart. New York: Berkley Books.
  • Mooney, A. et al. (2009). Impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Well-being: Evidence Review. Thomas Coram Research Unit, University of London.
  • Reynolds, J. et al. (2014). Parental Conflict: Outcomes and interventions for children and families. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Woodall, K. & Woodall, N. (2009). Putting Children First: A Handbook for Separated Parents. London: Piatkus Books Ltd.