Children can react very differently to separation or divorce. The way they react depends on a number of things, but two important factors are the age of the child and the degree of conflict and animosity between the parents.
There is no doubt this is a stressful period for children, but most recover and end up leading normal healthy lives. Children from separated families can develop and flourish just as well as other children. Their adjustment is enhanced when parents remain sensitive to the childrens needs.
Separation is often a surprise for children and they generally experience many of the same feelings as adults. Children can also grieve for quite a long time. They may be unaware of the problems their parents were having and they may feel shocked and confused when the separation occurs. They are also likely to feel insecure and worry whether the remaining parent will leave them as well.
Some children may feel that they must have been to blame. Others may feel very angry with either or both of their parents and want to blame one of them. Sometimes children become unsure about whether they can still love the parent who left, and they can wonder what is happening to the absent parent. Although parents are often upset and confused themselves at this time, it is important to try to understand what your children are going through and to consider their feelings as well.
Remember, it can be far less harmful for a child to go through family breakdown than to go on living in an unhappy family where there is extreme tension and fighting in the home.