Separated or Separating Parents: How to Ease Divorce Pain for Your Children

It cannot be overstated that partnership breakdowns and separation are a stressful time for all concerned.

The situation gets even more complicated when kids are involved. Too often we hear about separation nightmares where things get really nasty and the children of separating parents get caught in the middle of a war zone.

It gets even worse when kids are used as pawns to get even with a partner out of spite, with no regard for the emotional welfare of the kids involved and the long- term damage it can do.

On the other hand, there are separating or separated parents who, despite their differences, are able to hold it together and control their emotions for the sake of their children.

Such an occurrence is not uncommon but finding research-based evidence on what works from separated parents that have chosen to make it work, is rare indeed.

This is exactly why Dr. Pricilla Dunk-West, a social science researcher from South Australia’s Flinders University conducted her own study involving hundreds of surveys and one on one interviews with separated parents, who have chosen to be child-centric.

Released in January 2019, Dr. Dunk-Wests breakthrough findings are receiving world-wide interest as previous studies have tended to focus on the fall-out, rather than when things go right.

In this report, we will share with you Dr. Dunk-West’s insights as to how other parents are able to manage the process of separation.

You will gain valuable tips on how to navigate the tricky terrain of separation when kids are involved, using tried and tested methods.

Parenting Arrangements

One of the first things that parents must do when separating is to work out what parenting arrangements need to be put in place.

They think about questions such as:

How often will the child be in each parent’s care, and what days of the week?

• How will financial costs of the children be distributed?

• What will happen on special events such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day & birthdays?

• How flexible will the arrangements be?

• Should changes and negotiations occur in person as a conversation or should things be written down  formally?

When a Child’s Home Has Two Locations

When children are living across two households, there are some important factors to consider. Separating parents have found it helpful to ask question such as;

  • Will bedtimes be the same across the households?
  • What name will you give the households?
  • Will the food be the same or different in each home and how will you negotiate this?
  • What factors influence the distance between the households and how will you arrange travel

between homes?

  • How will you share celebrations such as birthdays across households?

Separating Parents Need Support Too

When couples separate, they often need the support of significant others in their lives. Often, the initial consequences of separation can feel overwhelming. People can feel guilty about the impacts on their child or children, they can feel like they have ‘failed’ or they can feel a sense of freedom.

Participants in the study reported that friends were important to them during separation and also afterwards. Friends were described as people to whom the participant could vent, talk about their feelings and feel supported.

Friends can include people who are related, such as siblings or parents, or people who have children of a similar age. Friends and loved ones potentially offer ideas about how to work towards a positive post-separation parenting relationship with an ex-partner.

Questions which may be helpful for separating parents include:

  • Who could you go to for emotional support, such as at a social event or coffee?
  • Are there people who you know and trust to help with particular tasks such as picking up your children or helping you if you were unwell?
  • Do you have other parents to whom you can talk about parenting?

Child Centred

One of the central themes that emerged during Dr. Dunk West’s research was the relationship between being ‘child-centred’ and positive outcomes for children.

Participants were able to describe how their child might view situations—this involves employing imagination. The ability to try to see the world from the child’s perspective is important for parents who are separating.

Secondly, understanding a child’s needs – their social, emotional, basic care and developmental needs are important.

Considering the following questions can be useful for separating parents to see the world from their child’s perspective:

  • What is the age of your child or children? What needs do they have and how will these change as they get older?
  • How would you describe your child? How can you continue to nurture their confidence and

curiosity about the world?

  • How will you frame your relationship with your ex-partner? Some parents say that they still love their child’s other parent but that they have decided not to live together.


  • What explanation might you use and how will you continue to discuss any questions your child or children have about your separation?


5 Tips for Separating Parents Who Wish to Be Child Centred


  1. Manage your emotions – no matter how difficult, try to think rationally about the right thing to do – particularly in front of the children.