Support for separated parents

Whether parents live together or separately, their family still exists. So it is important to try to work together to be the best parents you can be for your child. This will really help your child’s wellbeing.

However, separating can cause new conflict. You and your partner may argue over topics such as financial support, family time, co-parenting and living arrangements. Always try to ask yourselves: how might this affect our child?

Parents are often role models for their children. Your child is watching how you manage this situation. If they see that you are both still their parents, and making decisions together about them, they will cope better.

On this page, find out how to protect your children from conflict between separated parents.

Or learn more on our pages for single parents and reducing arguments and conflict between parents.

No one should ever be made to feel unsafe or threatened. If your relationship with your ex or partner has become abusive, get help with support for domestic abuse on the Kent Family website. You can also find guidance on related topics in our section on keeping your family safe.

Discuss your separation or divorce

If you have separated from the other parent, your child will probably have some level of understanding, depending on their age. It is often helpful for parents to give clear messages on why the separation happened, to reduce any worries that it might have been their child’s fault.

You can reach out to family and friends for support, and professional services are also available. For some useful advice and guidance, visit the Relate website page about telling children you're separating.

Reassure your child

Explain to your child what things will change and what will remain the same. This is a good way to help them share how they are feeling. It is important that you both tell your children it is okay for them to feel sad or frightened, because this is an uncertain time for them.

Co-parenting and planning

Early on, you can work out a plan for shared childcare arrangements. Agree what you do and don’t need to communicate about. Think about how things will work for school runs, weekends, holidays and emergencies. Make sure you are both clear with your child about what they can expect from each of you. Always ask yourself: what is best for our child?

Create consistency

Work together to make some consistent rules in both households. These may include:

  • mealtimes
  • bedtimes
  • expectations around behaviour
  • ways to set boundaries
  • TV programmes your child can watch.

Using different rules and guidelines can cause confusion. Competing to be the ‘favourite’ parent can mean you can lose focus on what your child really needs.

Never speak badly about one another

Your child still loves their other parent. So you should avoid speaking negatively about your ex in front of them. Your child may feel forced to take sides. If your ex has made you feel angry or hurt, keep these conversations between you and other adults. Your child needs to be supported to have healthy relationships with both of you, and to feel able to speak about the other parent with you.

Communicate directly with each other

It can be tempting to use your child as a messenger between you and your ex. Instead, keep arrangements and negotiations between parents.

Being a role model helps your child cope

Your children are learning from how you manage this situation. If they see that you are still their parents, making decisions together about them, then they will cope better.

Family mediation services

If things are strained between you and an ex, think about using an independent, trained mediator. They can help you make agreements about important issues like childcare and money.

More support and guidance

Get more help, advice and courses in this section: