Helping Children Navigate Parental Separation or Divorce: A Comprehensive Guide

The MIND 24-7 Team | July 9, 2024

When parents decide to separate or divorce, it can be a tumultuous and confusing time for children. They might struggle to understand the changes in their family dynamics and may experience a range of emotions from sadness to anger. As caregivers, it’s crucial to provide the necessary support to help them navigate these challenging transitions. This guide aims to offer practical strategies and resources to support children through parental separation or divorce, ensuring they feel heard, loved, and secure despite the changes in their family structure. By fostering open communication, providing emotional reassurance, and seeking professional help when needed, parents can help their children cope and adapt in a healthy and positive way.

  1. Open and Honest Communication:
    • Age-Appropriate Conversations: Explain the situation to children in an age-appropriate manner. Be honest about the changes while reassuring them of your love and commitment to them.
    • Encourage Questions: Allow children to ask questions and express their feelings. Provide clear, honest, and reassuring answers to help them better understand the situation.
  2. Reassurance and Stability:
    • Consistency: Maintain as much consistency as possible in childrens’ daily routines and schedules. Consistency provides a sense of stability and security during times of change.
    • Reassurance: Reassure children that both parents will continue to love and support them, despite the separation or divorce. Emphasize that the separation is not their fault.
  3. Emotional Support:
    • Acknowledge Feelings: Validate emotions and let them know it is okay to feel sad, angry, or confused. Encourage them to express their feelings in healthy ways.
    • Provide Comfort: Offer physical comfort, such as hugs, and spend quality time together to reinforce your presence and support.
  4. Avoiding Conflict:
    • Shield from Conflict: Avoid exposing children to conflicts or arguments between parents. Shielding them from parental disputes reduces stress and anxiety.
    • Respectful Co-Parenting: Practice respectful co-parenting by communicating amicably and cooperatively with your ex-partner regarding childrens’ needs and well-being.
  5. Professional Support:
    • Counseling: Consider seeking professional counseling or therapy for children. A therapist can provide a safe space for them to express their feelings and develop coping strategies.
    • Support Groups: Explore support groups for children going through similar experiences. Sharing with peers can help children feel less isolated and more understood.
  6. Encouraging Positive Relationships:
    • Maintain Relationships: Encourage and facilitate childrens’ relationships with both parents. Support regular visitation and communication with the non-custodial parent.
    • Extended Family and Friends: Foster connections with extended family members and friends who can provide additional support and a sense of community.
  7. Modeling Healthy Coping:
    • Self-Care: Take care of your own emotional well-being. Children often model their behavior after their parents, so demonstrating healthy coping mechanisms is crucial.
    • Positive Attitude: Maintain a positive and hopeful attitude about the future. Your optimism can help reassure your children that things will get better.
  8. Education and Resources:
    • Books and Materials: Utilize books, articles, and online resources designed to help children understand and cope with separation or divorce. These materials can provide valuable insights and comfort.
    • School Support: Inform childrens’ teachers and school counselors about the situation. They can offer additional support and monitor any changes in behavior or academic performance.

Additional Resources

Supporting children through the process of parental separation or divorce involves providing them with various resources to help them understand and cope with their emotions. Here are some valuable resources for kids experiencing these changes:

Books for Children

  1. “Two Homes” by Claire Masurel: This picture book helps young children understand that they can have a happy life in two homes, one with each parent.
  2. “Dinosaurs Divorce” by Marc Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown: This book uses dinosaur characters to explain divorce in a child-friendly way, addressing common concerns and questions.
  3. “It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear” by Vicki Lansky: A comforting book for young children that reassures them that they are not to blame for their parents’ divorce.
  4. “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst: This story teaches children about the unbreakable connection of love between family members, even when they are apart.
  5. “A Smart Girl’s Guide to Her Parents’ Divorce” by Nancy Holyoke: This book from the American Girl series provides practical advice and emotional support for girls navigating their parents’ divorce.

Websites and Online Resources

  1. KidsHealth: KidsHealth offers articles and videos to help kids understand and cope with divorce. The site includes sections for kids, teens, and parents.
  2. Sesame Street in Communities: Sesame Street Divorce Toolkit provides resources, videos, and activities to help young children deal with the changes that come with divorce.
  3. Rainbows for All Children: Rainbows for All Children offers programs and resources for children experiencing family transitions, including divorce and separation.
  4. Kids Turn: Kids Turn provides programs and resources to help children understand and cope with the changes in their family due to divorce.
  5. Changing Families: Changing Families offers resources and support for children and parents going through separation or divorce, including books and online content.

Apps and Interactive Tools

  1. Sesame Street: Divorce: This interactive tool from Sesame Street offers videos, storybooks, and activities to help children understand and cope with divorce.
  2. Mango Health: An app that helps kids manage stress and anxiety by teaching mindfulness and relaxation techniques. It can be particularly useful during times of family transition.
  3. My Family Changes: An interactive app designed to help children understand and cope with the changes that come with divorce. It includes games, stories, and activities to support emotional well-being.

Educational Videos and Online Workshops

  1. PBS Kids: PBS Kids offers videos and articles that address family changes, including divorce. Shows like “Arthur” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” have episodes dealing with these topics.
  2. YouTube Channels: Channels like Kids Helpline provide videos offering advice and support for children dealing with divorce and other family issues.
  3. Local Community Centers: Many community centers offer workshops and classes for children and parents going through divorce. These can provide additional support and resources.


Helping children navigate the emotional landscape of parental separation or divorce requires patience, empathy, and proactive support. By fostering open communication, providing reassurance and stability, and seeking professional help when needed, parents can mitigate the negative impact of this challenging transition. Every child’s response is unique, and it is essential to tailor your approach to their individual needs. With the right support and guidance, children can adapt to the changes and emerge resilient and emotionally healthy.

If your child is having challenges with separation or divorce, MIND 24-7 can help. MIND 24-7 is here for you and your family. We offer walk-in treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns—24 hours a day, every day of the year, including holidays. All adults and youth are welcome. If you or a loved one needs mental health care, visit one of our convenient locations in the Phoenix area or text/call 1-844-MIND247.