What your children may be feeling

The chart below shows the types of feelings identified in the children and teens guides of this website.

Children Teens
  • Sad
  • Mad
  • Scared
  • Worried
  • Ashamed
  • Guilty
  • Confused
  • Shock
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Relief
  • Sadness
  • Embarrassment
  • Hope

There are some common upsets that you can help prevent. Your children will be very upset if they see you arguing. It is essential for your children’s well-being that you do not argue with your ex-partner in front of the children. Ideally, if you and your ex-partner must argue, both of you will agree to do so in private where there is no chance of being overheard by the children. If this is not possible, you may have to do your best to minimize contact with the other parent when the children are present.

Children also find it upsetting to see one of their parents crying. They need to see that you are in control and coping with the situation. When you cry, your children may feel they have to take care of you and make you feel better. They should not have to face this additional stress and responsibility. This is not to say that you shouldn’t cry – just make every effort to do so in private, away from the children.

Most children will miss the parent that they are not with. They need to feel free to contact their other parent easily and with no disapproval from you. Pictures and videotapes can be helpful as well.

Sometimes, children will feel different from friends and other families. They need reassurance that there are lots of different types of families. Let them know that you are still a family and always will be. With divorce and separation so common, you probably can point out other children they know whose parents are no longer together. You may want to suggest that they talk to some of these children who have been through the same thing.

It is very common for children to hope that their parents will get back together. In reality, this rarely happens. You need to be very clear with your children that the decision to separate or divorce has been made, and you will not be getting back together. False hope could prolong their adjustment period. Some children and teens also believe that if they behave perfectly and take on extra responsibilities, their parents will reconcile. Make sure your children understand that just as they did not cause the divorce, there is nothing they can do to change it.

Children need to love and admire both of their parents and don’t want to choose between them. Although you probably wouldn’t come right out and ask the children to take sides, they may feel pressure to do so. Blaming or criticizing the other parent hurts the children. They need constant reassurance that both parents will continue to love them and that it is okay to continue loving both parents.