Families Change
Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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How do I let my children know it’s safe to talk to me about their feelings?

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It’s important for your children to learn that feelings are never bad. But how they act on those feelings can have bad results. Children - and adults, too - need a space where they can safely express their feelings.

Your children are taking a risk when they start talking about their feelings. Listen to them and tell them their feelings are important. Then they will be more likely to keep talking about their feelings. If you shut them down or don’t listen to them, they may not want to talk to you about their feelings again.

Sometimes we say things that shut down our kids feelings without even thinking:


Invalidating Statements

(message  that says: your feelings are bad)

Validating Statements

(message that says: your feelings are OK). 

Don’t be mad. Lots of children feel angry when their parents are splitting up.
Cheer up. It’s not that bad. Get over it. It looks like you’re feeling sad. Sometimes talking about it helps.
You’re overreacting. It looks like this is really important to you.
You shouldn’t worry about that. You’re right, I can see why you are worried. What is it about sharing a bedroom with your sister that you think might be hard?


It will be very hard for you to stay calm and supportive all the time. For example, your child might say: “I hate you!” This is a classic example of expressing feelings in a way that hurts someone. It might really hurt you, but it’s pretty normal. On the bright side, this can give you a chance to have an important talk with your child.

  • Help them figure out that they’re feeling angry.
  • Let them know that it’s a normal feeling to have when parents are separating or divorcing.
  • When things have calmed down, let them know that you felt hurt by what they said.
  • Make sure you tell them that you weren’t hurt because they were angry. It was just the way they expressed it.

When your children feel safe talking to you about their feelings, you can talk about problems and worries in a healthy way. You will be able to solve problems together. When the situation can’t be changed, you can still help them by talking about their feelings. Either way, your children will be happy to have your support and encouragement.