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Separation and Divorce

Kids Needs after parental separation

Psychologists can provide practical advice to parents going through separation. Recent research published in the APS’s latest InPsych magazine indicates that the reactions of children and adolescents to their parents’ separation differ with age and is thought to be due to cognitive maturity, as older children may be more capable of understanding the reasons behind a marital separation than younger children.

Psychological advice can help parents 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. The following information is adapted from the APS Position Statement and a booklet called Because it’s for the kids.

All children need:

· Protection from parental conflict.

· A secure emotional base.

· Help to solve their problems.

· Firm and reasonable limits to be safely independent.

· A trusted parent when they need to be dependent.

· Encouragement to learn.

· Routines that help them feel in control.

· Protection from trauma.

· Protection from parental stress about ongoing unresolved issues with ex-partners.

Infants need:
· Parents who are tuned into their needs.

· Predictability.

· A lot of time with parents who nurture them.

· Parents who play with them, listen carefully & 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.

· Help during transitions between parents.

Older primary school-aged children need:

· Reminders that it is not their responsibility to look after their parents’ well-being.

· Routines that are predictable, and consistent rules and expectations.

· Parents who can make room for thinking about their children’s 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 parents’ separation.

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