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Publication #FAR4003

Helping Children Cope with Divorce1

Diana Converse, Suzanna Smith, Keith Gouin, and Barbara Castro2

Figure 1. 
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All children feel a strong sense of loss when parents separate or divorce. It is not unusual for children of any age to rebel, misbehave, or become withdrawn. They cannot understand all the issues involved in a divorce and may feel confused, frightened, and worried.

If you are going through a divorce, be aware of your child's losses and offer them the emotional support they need. Divorce is a transition that usually lasts one to two years before, during, and after the divorce.

Whether you are the residential or nonresidential parent, start by reassuring your children that you love them and that they are not to blame for the divorce. Encourage them to share their questions and any feelings they may have about the divorce. Listen and be patient. Sometimes it may be difficult to focus on your children as you go through your own transition, but parenting in a loving, attentive way is one of the most important things you can do.

In addition, provide a safe, warm, and loving environment in the homes of both parents, if possible. Have children keep personal items in both places so they have a sense of belonging and don't need to pack a suitcase or backpack every time they transfer from one home to the other.

Don't depend on your children for emotional support. Seek out help from adults, whether friends, family, or a professional counselor. Children are counting on a parent to take care of him or herself as well as the child.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Bosch, G., & Bushaw, K. (1995). Talking to children about divorce (FS442). Retrieved May 9, 2007, from

Ferrer, M., & McCrea, S. (2002). Talking to children about divorce (FCS2133). Retrieved May 9, 2007, from

Leon, K., & Cole, K. (2002). Helping children understand divorce. Retrieved May 9, 2007, from

McCoy, Jolene, Ed. (1996). Divorce matters: Talking with children. Retrieved May 9, 2007, from

Tempke, Mary. (1998). The effects of divorce on children. University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.



This document is FAR4003, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 171 and published February 2008. Revised May 2008. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Diana Converse, Extension agent III, Hillsborough County; Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and executive producer, Family Album Radio; Keith Gouin, coordinator, Educational Training Programs, UF/IFAS Extension; and Barbara Castro, former student.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.