Helping children cope with separation and divorce-When is good time to tell them?

By: Priya Senroy, MA.CCC

In my practice, when working with couples who are contemplating divorce or separation, I have often found that the conversation needs to start long before the adults start thinking about it. Children are part of the parental conflict and have started asking the questions already. They know something is wrong and no matter how we, as parents, try to think that they are have no clue, we are only fooling ourselves. 

I always recommend that couples seek counselling for their children, no matter the age. Play therapy, creative arts therapy for the very young ones and one-on-one sessions are available along with support groups. Toronto has some robust organisations offering programs to help children to navigate through the transition.

Helping children cope with the divorce needs to start with engaging them during the whole process of the conflict. I have been often told by the children (irrespective of the age) that not only the divorce is hard to deal with but with the fact that no one took their feelings into consideration when the conflict was going on. They felt that they were not seen or heard during all this bitterness. They wished that they were given a space to express their feelings, and ask questions without being dismissed or told that nothing is wrong. They said that they hoped that their parents were honest before rather than having that family talk and delivering the decision.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has a site as well as publications dedicated to resources, ideas and suggestions parents can be aware of to help their children navigate the transition. They recommend:

“If you are going through a divorce, you are probably concerned about the effect on your children. This can be a difficult time for them. Children’s emotions may go through stages and change. They may feel sad, confused, angry, guilty or worried about what will happen to them. How you handle the changes will be important for your child’s wellbeing.” (PHAC 2018).

Wanting to separate or divorce is a life changing event for any couple and if children are involved, it might be useful to engage them in appropriate ways from the time the children start to notice changes.

*The views expressed by the author are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Law Office of Athena Narsingh.

Priya Senroy is a Certified Canadian Counsellor with over 18 years of experience, using client centered counselling approach to support changes in a person’s life. Please visit for more information or call 64-268-78668 for a 15 minute FREE consultation.