7 min read

I’m going through a break up and want to support my child

- Some of the first things to think about so you can support your child while you are working things out

Illustration of a parent sitting on a sofa with their daughter

Things you can try

  1. Make sure you never put your child in the middle

    Don’t argue and fight with your ex in front of them. Don’t ask them to pass on messages or choose between the adults. It’s not easy to keep to that at such an emotional time. Most of us going through separation have trouble thinking straight. Make it easier by planning some tactics to help in advance.

    Read about the ins and outs of co-parenting.

  2. Unless it is unsafe, make it easy for your child to stay connected to your ex

    Your child will often find it hard to work out whether they should talk to you about your ex. Make space for them to be able to talk about how they love them. Don’t shut them down. If it is safe, make it easy for them to contact your ex.

    It can be very hard on you. But it can also make a huge difference to your child feeling secure and supported.

    He seemed so much happier once I started to remind him to ring his mum. It was like it helped him to know how much we both loved him.

  3. Find time and space to listen to them

    Your child might be scared to show you how they feel. It’s your job to reassure them and encourage them to speak up.

    Say things like “It’s ok to cry” and “It’s not your fault”

    Encourage them to ask questions. Respond as simply as they can. Focus on the parts that are most important to them – how their life will change, where they will live.

    Try and have simple answers for when they ask why your relationship has broken down – they don’t need the details.

    Ask “What is it like for you?”

  4. Make sure you support your child when they need you the most

    Everyone affected by the separation will be experiencing loss and grief. Try and give your child extra attention so that they know you care about them.

    You also need to watch out for warning signs that they might need a little bit more help in coping with the situation. Every child deals with separation in their own way.

  5. Get support from other adults

    Everything about separation can be difficult and emotional. Make sure you are getting the support you need from other adults.

    Lean on friends. Ask them to help you look after yourself and talk things through with them.

    It’s ok to not be ok – rely on others, so you can support your child better.

    If you need to, look for counselling or therapy services that can help you or your child.

    Try contacting the Family Lives Confidential Helpline.

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