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Children are affected by divorce and separation in many ways. In the short term, they may experience intense emotions and feel conflicted loyalties. Children under 4 are especially sensitive as this is a period when many rapid changes are taking place cognitively, emotionally and socially. 

Parents need first and foremost to pay attention to their children’s needs:

  • Children under the age of 3 will benefit from predictable caregiving and frequent contact, even briefly, with both parents.

  • Parenting flexibility, good communication, emotional sensitivity and openness to the child’s feelings are essential.

Most children don’t suffer long-term consequences, but the possible impacts of divorce and separation for some (e.g., mental health, substance abuse, delinquency and teenage pregnancy) speak to the need for better supports for parents and interventions for children affected.