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How to tell the children you are separating  

How to tell the children you are separating

Child holding parents handsWhen parents make the difficult decision to separate, one of the most challenging aspects is how to tell the children you are separating. This delicate conversation sets the foundation for their understanding and acceptance of the new family dynamic. At Mediate UK, we understand the importance of guiding our clients through this process.

In this blog, we will explore effective ways to break the difficult news to the children and highlight the valuable role family mediation plays in supporting both parents and children during this challenging time.

Plan ahead and Plan together

Before speaking to your children, it is helpful for both parents to come together and plan how to approach the conversation. Ideally, both parties should be present, demonstrating a united front and a shared commitment to the well-being of the children. This collaborative approach can help establish a sense of stability and minimise confusion or anxiety.

Before having the conversation with your child, it is essential to take time to prepare yourself emotionally. Divorce can be a highly charged and overwhelming experience, but it is important to approach the conversation with a calm and composed demeanour.

Choose the Right Time and Place

Finding the right timing is essential; avoid significant events or busy periods in your child’s life, such as birthdays or school exams. Pick a suitable time when there are no distractions or time pressures.

Find a quiet and comfortable space where everyone feels secure and can openly express their emotions. Remember to prioritise privacy, allowing your children the space to react and ask questions without feeling judged.

Keep It Simple and Age-Appropriate

While honesty is key, it’s important to communicate in a way that is appropriate for each child’s age and level of understanding.

parents talking with small childKeep explanations simple and avoid blaming one another. Reassure your children that their feelings matter, and that the separation is not their fault. Encourage them to ask questions and express their emotions openly.

Remember that younger children have limited cognitive abilities and a limited understanding of complex concepts like divorce. Use simple, clear, and age-appropriate language to explain the situation. Keep the explanation concise, focusing on the most crucial aspects while avoiding unnecessary details that may confuse or overwhelm your child/children.

Emphasize Unconditional love and Support

Children often internalise blame for their parents’ separation. Reassure your child that the decision to separate is between the adults and has nothing to do with them. Make it clear that both parents still love and care for them and that the separation is not their fault in any way.

Reassure your children that the separation does not diminish the love and care you both have for them. Emphasise that they will continue to be loved and supported by both parents, even though their living arrangements may change, assure them that their needs and well-being will remain a top priority.

Validate Their Feelings

Let your child know that it’s normal to feel sad, confused, or even angry about the situation. Encourage them to express their emotions openly and provide a safe space for them to do so. Assure them that their feelings are valid and that you are there to support them throughout this process.

Maintain Routine and Stability

Children thrive on stability and routine, so it is crucial to establish a sense of consistency amidst the changes caused by separation. Reassure your child that their daily life will continue as normally as possible. Discuss any new arrangements or changes that will affect their routine, such as living arrangements and visitation schedules, to provide a sense of predictability.

Encourage Questions and Open Dialogue

Child speaking with counsellorAfter explaining the situation, encourage your child to ask questions and express any concerns they may have. Be patient, understanding, and honest in your responses. Remember that open communication is vital for your child’s emotional well-being and their ability to process and adapt to the changes.

Seek Professional Support

Divorce is a complex process, and it is natural to feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to best support your child. Consider seeking guidance from a family mediator, therapist, or counsellor who specialises in working with children and families experiencing separation. These professionals can provide valuable insights, advice, and tools to help you navigate this challenging time.

The Role of Mediation

After breaking the news, seeking professional assistance, such as family mediation, can significantly support both parents and children during the transition. Mediation provides a neutral and safe space where parents can work together to develop a child-focused parenting plan.  Processes like Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) will give children (where appropriate) a voice in this process if desired.

Here are three ways family mediation can help:

1 – Mediators help facilitate effective communication between parents, enabling them to address concerns, explore various arrangements, and make informed decisions that prioritise the best interests of the children.

2 – Mediation assists in resolving conflicts and reducing tension between separating parents. By encouraging cooperative problem-solving, it promotes a healthier environment for both parents and children, minimising the negative impact of the separation.

3 – Family Mediation can offer Customized Solutions. Mediators understand that every family is unique. They help parents create personalised child arrangements that consider the specific needs, schedules, and preferences of each family member, fostering a sense of stability and consistency. These can also be revisited and updated, if necessary, as the children grow older.


mother hugging childrenTelling your children about your separation is undoubtedly challenging, but with careful planning, honest communication, and the assistance of family mediation, you can navigate this difficult conversation with sensitivity and understanding.

Family Mediation offers valuable support in building a child-focused future where both parents can collaborate, fostering the well-being and happiness of the entire family. Remember, you don’t have to face this journey alone – reach out to a reputable mediation firm to guide you through the process.

Have you considered Family Mediation? Book a Free 15 min consultation with one of our Business Support Team to find out more about our process.

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