How to help your child (age 7-10) through your separation


Knowing what is appropriate to discuss with your child is key to supporting them in having a positive relationship post-separation with both parents.

Parental separation is a difficult topic for parents to talk about with their children, especially when taking the emotions of everyone involved into consideration. Children need age-appropriate information, otherwise they can worry about the unknown.

Getting it right for your child is important to help them through parental separation. The following guidelines should help you answer those awkward questions.

Follow the C-H-I-L-D Rule

C – Consistency

  • Most children aged 7-10 years are well settled into a consistent routine of family life, school and after school activities. They also understand a lot about what is going on in the adult world and the community around them.

  • At the time of parental separation, maintain a consistent approach to answering questions and involving your child in the changes that are happening for them. Talk to your co-parent and try to agree what you will tell your child about what is happening in the family.

  • Children of this age need continued reassurance as their self-esteem develops and they start to engage in life outside of the home. This age group tend to have very strong relationships with both of their parents. They choose who to ask about certain things and know who can meet their needs.

  • Children will not want to be left out of decisions that affect them. Being consistent in how you include them in parental separation will be key to how they respond to this family change. 

H – Hand it back

At times, parents feel under pressure to answer the many questions children can have for them. 

  • Instead of trying to answer every question or justify why something is happening ask your child – What is this like for you? Tell me more about what you are thinking!

  • Many children aged 7-10 years will fret about the future and worry about parents and siblings. They may dread simple things like who will take them to school or sports activities. They may even feel anxious about money and finances.

  • By asking your child to tell you more about what it will be like when they live separately with both parents, you will help them untangle the knot of stress in their head and be in a better position to offer reassurance.

  • We don’t always need to have the answers. It is better to tell your child you are happy they told you something and you will talk it over with the other parent or think about it. This way, they know that you have listened and engaged with them in a meaningful way about what is happening.

I – Imagination

  • Children aged 7-10 years have a great capacity to write stories and read books, which allows them to consider the future and what it might hold for them.

  • During parental separation it is key to support children to imagine the future. At the time of the change, things can seem very gloomy and lonely for them. Children can easily get stuck in a place where they think they will never be happy again or that their parents will never be happy again.

  • Help them to imagine the future, when things are resolved and settled. Discuss how both parents will be there for them along with extended family and friends.

  • Thinking about the future can trigger anxiety — but a growing body of research suggests that it can also make our lives more meaningful. Sitting with your child and imagining the future – three months time, six months, a year – will help you get an insight into what your child is thinking about.

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L – Language

  • Children of 7-10 years have an extensive vocabulary and can often speak as clearly as many adults. However, it is still important to ensure that you are sharing information with them that they need and understand.

  • Children of this age will seek factual information, but will be more inclined to be emotionally driven. For example, a child will not just want to know that a parent is moving out but also what led to it.

  • Helping children to understand the complexity of adult relationships while supporting them to not judge or blame either parent requires time to talk, to listen and to understand what your child can comprehend. Try not to fixate on the question your child asks, but think about what they are worried about or what need is not being met for them due to the family changes.


Do you not love Mummy anymore, why are you moving out?

Parents can respond by saying:

I love you loads, and I will always care about your Mummy because she is a really important person in your life.

I need to move out because your Mum and I cannot live together anymore. We fight a lot, you hear us at times, and it will make us both happier when we are not fighting. I need you to know that I will always be your dad and I will be here for you. We will work this out.

  • Children need to be reassured that you are not leaving them, you are just creating a safer and happier space for each family member to thrive in. 

D – Don’t avoid

Many parents avoid answering children’s awkward questions, thinking they are too young to understand. Parents can also be driven by emotion and tell children too much or too little about parental separation.

  • It is really important to remember that children need to be included in all decisions affecting them. Don’t always leave it to the child to ask a question or presume they already know what is going on. 

  • The separation will come as a surprise and can make them sad or angry. Most children love their parents equally and want to spend time with them both. As parents, it is important to consider how you can continue to support your child to have a relationship with their other parent post-separation.

  • Tell children from the start what is happening. Allow children to have a part in this process. You cannot do everything they want, but you can let them know that you hear how hard this is for them.


Be open with children about all family changes. Your relationship will be more secure if your child trusts you to be honest with them. You are the best person to talk with your child about family separation.

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