The separation of parents and their impact on children according to their age

When the issue of separation from parents is a fact, it is essential to take into account the suffering that may result to children. It is the parents themselves who must do everything possible to manage their separation adequately and responsibly so as not to harm their children.

A testimony from a mother of two children, one of 7 and the other of 9 published in "El País" on May 4, 2011, invites us to reflect on how a situation of separation can affect minors if it is not managed properly :

"As a mother, the most important idea, the mantra of this new period has been: children do not get divorced, children should not be mixed up in the couple's problems, neither married nor, even less, separated. They divorce-or separate, in my case-are the parents, and as cordially as possible-if possible, it's worth the redundancy-because any airy conflict in front of the children just splashes them in. Even if we do not want to, they'll make it theirs and, inevitably, they will blame themselves.The couple can break up, but what they have to pass on to their children is that the family has transformed into something else, but their father and mother will remain the same.To the loss of stability family can not add the loss of a father or mother.For children is so marked fear of loss that they equate to death.The idea that dad and mom are in danger of dying.


There are two components to highlight in the previous testimony:
1. The responsibility of the parents before a situation of rupture.
2. The guilt and fear that children will feel before a process of breaking their parents.

What are the most common mistakes in a separation process?

On several occasions and unconsciously the parents can make a series of mistakes that harm the children. Among the most common:

1. Transmit to the child the idea that they should choose between one parent or another. In this way, the child will be pressured producing emotional distance. In the end you will feel closer to the one who shows you affection and love.


2. Express comments that damage the figure of the absent parent. Sometimes feelings can be instilled in the child based on the lie. In this way, a distrust will be generated by developing different emotional lacks with respect to the absent parent.

3. Present different couples continuously and frequently and establish an early coexistence. Children need to know the new couple in a progressive way respecting their time and generating common spaces where they can share activities to generate a bond. In this way, a balance can be obtained between the optimal development of the minors and the consolidation of the new couple.

What are the psychological consequences of separating parents from children?

The type of impact and its degree will depend on the coping style of the parents, the child's age and their degree of maturity.


1. When the divorce develops during pregnancy. The mood of the mother will influence the baby and may be born with low weight or delay in their cognitive development.

2. In children between 1 and 3 years old. It is common for children to have shyness, isolation, emotional distancing or phobias behavior that translates into nightmares.

3. In the case of children from 3 to 6 years old. They can usually generate feelings of guilt as they still lack the capacity to understand the causes of the separation. They can adopt very different response styles: passive-aggressive.

4. Children between 6 and 9 years old. They may experience feelings of rejection, a sense of loss and sadness, as well as a fear of being abandoned, as they still hope that their parents can be reconciled.

5. Between 9 years and 12 years. It is very common that they may experience shame from their parents and feelings of anger toward the parent who made the decision to separate.

6. Adolescent children, between 13 and 18 years old. They may have conflicts between accepting or denying the situation of separation. In this way, different consequences can be generated: from hypermature on the part of the minor to behavioral problems, such as antisocial, defiant or substance use behaviors.

On other occasions, the separation of the parents has generated liberalization of a toxic and violent environment generating more mature and resilient adults. For this reason, it is the adults who must assume their responsibility as parents without forgetting to meet the needs of their children. As expressed in the initial testimony: "the children do not get divorced, you do not have to mix the children in the problems of the couple".

Ángel Bernal Caravaca. Psychologist and mediator. Cofounder of Lomber Soluciones Cyberbullying

Video: The voices of children separated at the border


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