Parental Guide - Reactions in the Children


It is common for children to show their worries through their behaviour at time of stress. Younger children may start bed-wetting or become clingy, while other children may become faddish about food or throw tantrums. Older children may regress in schoolwork, all at a time when you may be feeling drained and exhausted yourself.

Remember these are common occurrences and with support, time and understanding these behaviours are likely to disappear. For some children, the separation may come as a relief. They may have witnessed the rows and the atmospheres and seen the separation coming for ages. Nevertheless, the final decision to separate can still be a tremendous shock to children and they often hope for some considerable time that their parents will get back together.

It is important to remember that a child’s reaction to the separation, particularly when their behaviour gets worse or they become moody does not mean there are likely to be long term problems.

Children who express their distress at the time are likely to diminish the chances of longer term harmful effects. The child who shows little emotion, be it anger or distress, runs the risk that in bottling up his or her feelings these may resurface at some later stage.

Your children may react in very different ways and there is not necessarily a right or a wrong way. Their reactions will be affected by a variety of factors including their age and understanding of what is happening and the strength of the relationship that they already have with you as parents. Don’t expect that you can predict how children might react. They might surprise you. The shy child might cope better than the confident outgoing one. There isn’t really a normal way of reacting to a separation.