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Divorce is a difficult period and can be particularly challenging if you have children. Help is available.

Divorce with children

Going through a divorce is challenging, especially when children are involved. For children, parental separation can bring a world of change, uncertainty and emotional turbulence. As a parent, it is important to approach this sensitive situation with great care, understanding and support.

Going through a divorce with children requires open communication, joint efforts to maintain stability and love, and strategies to manage the emotional well-being of both parents and children. Navigating the divorce in a way that protects the best interests of children and provides them with the security and structure they need is critical to their adjustment and long-term health.

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How do you tell children about divorce?

Telling children about divorce is a difficult conversation that requires care, sensitivity and honesty. It is important to adapt the conversation to the child’s age and maturity level. Conveying the message in a way that minimizes anxiety and uncertainty is essential. Here are some steps to help facilitate the conversation:

1. Plan the conversation

Decide on a time when you can talk privately. Make sure both parents are present if possible, to show a united front. Additionally, it is important to tell children about an upcoming divorce in a timely fashion.

2. Be honest but careful

Explain the situation in a simple and clear way. Do not go into adult details that could be harmful or confusing for the child. It may be enough to say that the parents are no longer in love with each other and therefore need to separate.

3. Assurance of love

It is crucial that the child understands that the divorce does not affect the parents’ love for them. Children need to hear that they are not the cause of the divorce. It is important for them to know that their parents’ care for them remains unchanged.

4. Describe what will change and what will stay the same

Give the child a clear picture of the practical changes that will take place. Additionally, emphasize the aspects of their life that will remain constant.

5. Listen and answer questions

Be open to the child’s reactions and questions. It is important to listen actively and respond honestly to their concerns. Let the process take its time and answer questions as they arise.

6. Offer support

Reassure the child that it’s okay to feel and express their feelings. Remind them that support is available, whether from parents, other family members, or professionals.

Navigating a conversation about divorce requires time, patience and a lot of care. The primary goal is to reassure the child that they will continue to be loved and supported through this change.

Reactions to divorce in children and young people of different ages

Children’s reactions to divorce vary according to their age and stage of development. Young children may become more clingy and experience anxiety upon separation. Preschoolers may feel guilty and wonder if they are the cause of the divorce. School-age children may show signs of sadness, anger and anxiety about changes in everyday life. Teenagers may react with anger, rebellion or social withdrawal, and they may question their own relationships. Children of any age can experience emotional pain and confusion. However, with the right support and communication, children can adapt and learn to cope with the change.


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Dealing with divorce with children effectively

It is crucial to focus on communication, cooperation and consistency. This creates a stable and positive foundation for children after a divorce. Here are some key steps:

  1. Maintain open communication: Make sure children feel that they can talk about their feelings and thoughts about the divorce and the changes it brings.
  2. Parental cooperation: Consistency between homes in terms of rules and routines helps the child feel secure.
  3. Stable environment: Try to maintain as much stability and routine in the child’s daily life as possible, including school, extracurricular activities and social relationships.
  4. Assurance of love: Children need repeated assurances that both parents continue to love them and that the divorce is not their fault.
  5. Manage conflicts away from children: Avoid involving children in adult conflicts or speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the child.
  6. Adapting information: Give your child age-appropriate information about what is happening and what the future holds. On our website, you can also read about how to introduce a new partner to your children when that day comes.
  7. Seek support if needed: Consider involving a therapist or child psychologist if extra support is needed to deal with the emotions of the divorce.
  8. Build new traditions: Create new positive traditions and memories that strengthen the bonds within the new family structure.

By creating a sense of normalcy, safety and love, children can better navigate the life changes of divorce and develop a strong foundation for the future.


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12 common questions about divorce with children

What can it mean to divorce with children?

Going through a divorce is one of life’s most challenging periods, especially when children are involved. For children, parental separation can bring a world of change, uncertainty and emotional turbulence.

How can you approach divorce as a parent?

As a parent, it is important to approach this sensitive situation with great care, understanding and support to mitigate its impact on children.

What can be required of me as a parent?

Divorcing with children requires open communication, joint efforts to maintain stability, and strategies to manage the emotional well-being of both parents and children.

How can I tell my children about the divorce?

Informing children about divorce requires preparation, honesty and adapting the message to the child’s age to reduce anxiety. Key steps include planning a conversation with both parents present, reassuring them of the parents’ continued love, clarifying changes and constants in the child’s life, actively listening and answering questions, and offering support in dealing with emotions and changes.

How can children and young people react to divorce at different ages?

Young children may become more clingy and experience anxiety during separation, while preschoolers may feel guilty and wonder if they are the cause of the divorce. School-age children may show signs of sadness, anger and worry about changes in their daily lives. Teenagers may react with anger, rebellion or social withdrawal, and they may question their own relationships.

How can I deal with divorce with children?

Creating a stable foundation for children after divorce means maintaining open communication, collaborative parenting, and providing a stable environment while ensuring parental love and managing adult conflicts away from children. Adapting the information and possibly seeking professional support, as well as introducing new traditions, can help the child adapt and feel safe through the change.

Should children be allowed to decide where they want to live?

The older the child gets, the more consideration should be given to the child’s views on issues such as housing. Decisions should always be made in the best interest of the child.

What is the best age for children to separate?

There is no ideal age for children to experience parental separation, as children’s reactions vary with age, maturity and support. What matters is how parents handle the separation. Open communication, stability, avoiding conflict in front of the child, and offering support can mitigate negative effects for children of all ages.

What is a child psychologist?

A child psychologist is a licensed professional with knowledge and experience in working for the well-being and mental health of children and parents.

What does a child psychologist do?

Child psychologists offer therapy and counselling, but also work with families, parents and schools to help support children’s mental health.

Can I see a child psychologist online?

Yes, it is possible to have an online treatment via video. We have several child psychologists who work digitally at Lavendla.

Where can I turn if I or my child needs help from a child psychologist?

Child psychologists are usually available through referral from a family doctor or local clinic. At Lavendla we have experienced child psychologists who can also help.

How does treatment with a child psychologist work?

Seeking help from a psychologist or therapist is an important step when a child is experiencing mental health difficulties or if you are having difficulties as a parent. Here is a brief overview of what treatment can look like:

1. Initial Assessment

An initial consultation involves the psychologist assessing needs through conversations with the child and parents.

2. Treatment plan

An individualized plan is developed based on the child’s specific situation and needs. Common approaches include play therapy for younger children, where play is used as a tool for expression and processing. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are often used for older children, which focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Other methods such as family therapy can also be helpful.

3. Parental counselling

Parents receive guidance and support to better help their child at home.

4. Monitoring and adjustment

The treatment plan is continuously evaluated and adjusted as needed to ensure the best possible outcome.

A first step in seeking help

It is important to remember that each child is unique, and therefore treatment may vary. Working together with a child psychologist can give you and your child the tools needed to manage emotions and behaviours in a healthy way. At Lavendla, we have child psychologists who can help make the difficult easier.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.