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What Kids Need After Parental Separation

The reaction of children and adolescents to their parent’s separation will differ with age, personality and the circumstances of the separation. Older children are often able to understand the reasons behind the separation and will therefore react differently to a younger child whose cognitive development has not reached that stage. Regardless of age, all children need protection from parental conflict during this time as well as a secure emotional base and someone who can help them resolve any emotional problems they may be having.

Changes to routine are discouraged as this is what helps children feel in control with the ability to predict what is going to happen in their day to day. Protection from stress will help them focus on being children; to learn, laugh and play as they normally would, separating the adult issues at hand from their little worlds.

Below is a break-down of what children may require emotional at different ages of development:

Infants need:

  • Parents who are tuned into their needs
  • Predictibility
  • A lot of time with parents who nurture them
  • Parents who play with them, listen carefully to their efforts to communicate and keep their world safe
  • Visiting schedules that don’t cause too much change

Preschoolers need:

  • Plenty of time with their parents to know that they’re still there for them
  • Reassurance that they will see the absent parent again
  • Familiar rituals to help make the transition between parents

Young Primary school aged children need:

  • Help to see that they’re not to blame for the separation
  • Parents who stay interested and in touch with their school, activities and friends
  • Encouragement to talk about their feelings
  • Reassurance that the absent parent still loves them
  • Clear boundaries to help them manage behaviour that may be a reaction to the separation
  • Help during the transition between parents

Older primary school-age children need:

  • Reminders that it is not their responsibility to look after their parents’ wellbeing
  • Routines that are predictable, and consistent rules and expectations
  • Parents who can make room for thinking about their children’s needs apart from their own needs
  • Permission to love the other parent
  • Parents who listen carefully to how they feel about things.


Adolescents need:

  • Daily stress in their life kept as low as possible
  • Parents to be available daily to listen and give support
  • Predictable routines, consistent rules and expectations
  • Parents who are able to supervise them, and take a real interest in their lives.
  • Time and space to work out their own reactions to their parent’s separation
  • Flexibility in arrangements to allow them to participate in normal adolescent social activities and school events.

Psychologists can provide practical advice to parents going through separation, helping parents to build a secure base for their children after separation, and give parents information about the type of parental support that is helpful for children of different ages. For more information on our team this page.

Being Present is Your Greatest Gift
How to learn from our children’s natural gift of living in the moment

When the clock struck midnight and we ventured into the clean slate of 2017, many of us reflected on how we can better ourselves. One very simple resolution that struck a chord, was a mother’s pledge to delete social media apps from her phone so she could be more present. With a simple click of a wriggly cross, she would make a monumental difference to her ability to be present on a daily basis.

As parents we have the task of trying to meet our needs and that of our children simultaneously. This hefty feat is made even more difficult by modern technologies that act as constant temptations to multitask, by either checking our phone, email or other social media. Of course we are all entitled to a bit of our own time out and “argh, that online bill needs paying ASAP!’. However, when we are constantly dividing our attention it often leads us to feel stressed, unfulfilled and means we miss the beauty of the present moment.

Mindfulness is state of whole mind and body awareness focusing on the importance of our present experience rather than that of the past or future. It has been proven to reduce stress and the severity of depression, anxiety and ADHD in children and adults alike. The way we act as adults has a significant impact on a child’s opinion of themselves and their personal resilience. Being present with your child, playing with them undistracted, helps them to feel worthwhile and reinforces their natural tendencies to live in the moment.

Ellen Langer and team, a world-renowned mindfulness researcher found that children not only prefer to interact with mindful adults, but actually devalue themselves following interactions with mindless adults (Langer, Cohen & Djikic, 2010 as sited on www.kidsmatter.edu.au)

So, whatever your goals for the New Year, finding small ways to practice mindfulness can greatly benefit your wellbeing, and in turn reinforce the act of being present for our children.

Committing to daily mindfulness is like any other behaviour change… it seems difficult at first! But the more we practice, it becomes less of a chore and more of a habit that benefits not only ourselves but also those around us.

Herein lie a few simple ways you can practice mindfulness daily:

  1. Start your day mindfully by stretching each part of your body and noticing how it feels. This can be a fun activity with a child as you can ask them how each body part feels today. Start with “How are your feet feeling today, Sam?” All the way up to the face and hopefully a SMILE! Or if you have older children see if they will join you on a yoga mat to start the morning stretching together.
  2. Be in the moment. Take time to notice the present. Ask yourself (and a child if appropriate). What can I see? Feel? Hear? Smell? And Taste? It is amazing the things you will notice that the multitasker in you has previously missed.
  3. Mindful activity. Fully engage in an activity, distraction free. This can be alone or with a child. It sounds strange but a hair brushing ritual whilst focusing on breathing and enjoying the moment can be very relaxing for parent and child alike. But if this is not your thing it can be anything from playing, reading, to using technology… as long as you fully engage, you are living life to the fullest in that moment and isn’t that what it’s all about!


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