Parental Separation: Children and Young People's Emotional Journey

When parents separate they go through a grief (or loss) cycle. This is because they are dealing with the ending of an emotional relationship and it can be very hard. Sometimes they don’t realise that children go through the same thing.

The loss/grief cycle has several stages and these are experienced at different times, not necessarily in order and certain stages can last longer than others. Because we are unique human beings, it is difficult to tell exactly what we will feel and when but it is reassuring to know it’s all normal and won’t last forever.

The stages of the cycle are:-

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Your parents might be behaving badly towards each other or towards you but you must remember the separation is not your fault. It is their decision and they have to learn to work together in order to stay good parents to you. It can be embarrassing if they are arguing in public and you might want to tell them how that feels for you. Wait until everyone is calm before you do this.

If you find yourself behaving in a way you don’t normally behave, it could be something to do with this process and it might help to talk it through with someone. This could be a friend, a trusted teacher, a grandparent or other relative. If you tell an adult how you are feeling, they might be able to get your parents to sort something out. It is important at this stage not to make long term decisions as you might regret them later. For instance, it is very common for children to say they don’t want to see the parent who has left because they feel angry with them or they are trying to protect the other parent. Give yourself the chance to process this new situation before reacting where possible.

You might be feeling stressed, angry or even depressed. Sometimes parents will ask the family doctor to help you or to arrange for you to see a Counsellor. Your school might have a counsellor too.

NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.

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