What to say and what not to say

It is important to be accepting when communicating with your child rather than being dismissive. Below is a table of dismissing and accepting statements.

Dismissing
Accepting
"You don't need to be angry. There's nothing to be scared about." Children do feel angry and scared when their parents split up. Acknowledge that this is how they feel.
"Oh, come on. It's not that bad. Look at all the fun we're going to have together.
Loads of people go through this and they don't feel like that: get over it!"
"It looks like you're feeling worried. I'm happy to try talking about it with you -
that might help."
"You're overreacting." "It sounds like this is really making you sad."
"There's nothing to worry about." "I understand that. Which parts of [whatever the worry is centred on, such as the
separation or a house move] do you think will be difficult?"
"No - that's not the right way to think about it." "That's an interesting thought. Can we try to see why you'd think that?"
"You can't possibly wish for that!" "I can see why you might want that; let's think about how you see that working,
or not working."


The accepting statements do not make a judgement. The dismissing statements make a judgement, put down, or minimise the child's feelings and give the child the message that the feeling is not ok to have and should go away or be ignored.

It is important to be accepting in these circumstances even if the child's wishes cannot in the end be met - at least they will have felt heard and understood.

By listening you are not promising anything except to understand better. This will:

  • Make it clearer for the child how to communicate effectively;
  • Take into account the child feeling worries or scared;
  • Shows how to talk with acceptance rather than being dismissive.