Rachel Jolly from the Adelaide Resolutions Centre has pointed out that kids do not care about child support, who was married to who, and why their parents don’t like each other. THEY ARE CHILDREN she points out. Ms Jolly says they do care about who is there at school drop off and collection, who makes their dinner, who they hear cheering from the side lines and who stays up til 3am finishing their book week costume!

When a relationship ends and parents cease to be a couple, they remain mum and dad – for life. Kids are often faced with a whirlwind of emotions, changes in their daily lives, and uncertainty about the future.

At the time their parents are faced with their own emotional challenges, as well as the logistics of arranging new housing and disentangling their finances and a myriad of other issues that arise due to separation, the children will also be experiencing a wide range of emotions. Initially, they might feel shock, sadness, and confusion. As the process unfolds, they may also experience anger, guilt, and even relief in some cases. It is essential for parents to recognise and validate these emotions, allowing their children to express their feelings openly and without judgment.

Separation or divorce often signifies a profound sense of loss for kids. They may grieve the idea of a united family and the life they once knew. This feeling of loss can extend to their daily routines, as they may move to a new home, change schools, or adjust to different visitation schedules. Parents should be sensitive to this grief and provide support to help their children navigate these changes. Often when asked what they would hope for, children express a desire for their parents to get back together. The want their old life back, in a lot of cases. They have no control or choice over their parents decisions and this can add to their sense of helplessness.

Children may feel torn between their parents during a divorce. Loyalty conflicts can arise when they are asked to take sides or feel pressured to choose one parent over the other. It’s crucial for parents to refrain from putting their children in the middle of their disputes and encourage a healthy relationship with both parents. The Family Law Act recognises that with only a few exceptions, children’s best interests are promoted by maintaining a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, and indeed extended members of their family.

Kids develop various coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of divorce. Some may withdraw from social activities or exhibit changes in behavior, while others may become more defiant. Parents should be vigilant about observing these changes and seek professional help if necessary to ensure their child’s emotional well-being.

The impact of divorce on children can extend well into their adulthood. Studies have shown that children of divorced parents may be at a higher risk for experiencing relationship difficulties, emotional challenges, and even academic setbacks. However, it’s important to note that not all children face these issues, and many thrive with the right support and guidance.

One of the most significant factors in how children fare during and after a divorce is how well their parents can co-parent effectively. Maintaining open lines of communication, minimising conflict in front of the children, and presenting a united front when it comes to important decisions are key elements of successful co-parenting.

Divorce is a challenging process for all family members, but children often bear the brunt of its emotional impact. Understanding what kids go through during a divorce is essential for parents to provide the necessary support and stability that children need to navigate these turbulent times. By recognizing their emotions, avoiding loyalty conflicts, and promoting healthy coping mechanisms, parents can help their children emerge from divorce with resilience and a positive outlook on their future.  There are resources to assist parents to support their children. Finding the right family therapist or counselor can go a long way toward fostering a good outcome for children going through this major life event.

Bev Clark Director Clark Panagakos Family Law