I’m leaving my spouse; will my child be ok?

Published on January 8, 2021

Riley had tried everything to work it out with her husband, Dave.  They had gone to couples counselling, and she had tried to be flexible with his needs.  It seemed like no matter how hard she tried; he wasn’t happy.  She felt anxious and trapped in her marriage.  As much as she wanted to stay married for the kids, she thought that the constant conflict was harming them.

Regan had stepped outside of his marriage and was dating another woman.  He felt terribly guilty about it.  He told his wife the truth, which left her feeling hurt and betrayed.  She wanted to go to couple’s counselling, but he had already decided that he wanted to leave and be with someone else.  He felt torn between wanting to keep his family together and his desire to be with his new girlfriend.  He felt a deep friendship towards his wife, but he felt smothered by her.  The thought of staying in his marriage made him depressed.

Parents often want the best for their children, and most try to avoid psychological harm.  When children have a secure home with nurturing and protective parents, they tend to be resilient.  Children are harmed when they are caught in the middle of conflict, put in adult roles or situations or when they are neglected and abused.

Grief is a normal response, so children might be sad during a separation or a divorce. They might feel anxious because of the unpredictability.   Here are some ways to separate or divorce while keeping your child’s best interest in mind.

1. Create predictability

Change can be difficult because of the fear of the unknown.  Predictability allows your child to feel secure.  For example, you will see mom or dad on these days, you will do these activities today, tomorrow we will…

2. Keep routines

If your child has an everyday routine, stick to that as much as possible. If there is a change in their routine, let them know well in advance.

3. Answer their questions

Children might ask a lot of hard questions to answer. They might also ask the same question over and over again. They are trying to make sense of what is happening.  If you don’t have an answer, you can tell them that you will try to find out, or you will let them know as soon as you know. Then ask them how they feel about what you said.

4. They are loved

Let them know they are loved and wanted. Your children mustn’t feel rejected or abandoned by either parent.

5. Let them be children

Sometimes children worry if they think that one of their parents is sad or suffering. Children should be allowed to be children without worrying about adult matters such as affairs, finances or protecting their parents. Remind them that it is your job to protect them and not the other way around.

6. Picking Sides

Don’t make them pick sides, turning your child against the other person is a bad idea. It will psychologically stress and hurt your child.

7. Acknowledge their emotions

You might be experiencing big emotions yourself but try to make space for your child’s feelings. Ask them how they feel and listen without judging or dismissing those feelings.

8. It’s not their fault

Help them understand this is not their fault – Children might blame themselves; they might think if they were a better child, maybe this wouldn’t be happening. Explain to your child that it has nothing to do with them.


If you would like to set up an appointment with me please contact +852 2521 4668 or email m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Photo by Life Of Pix from Pexels


Category(s):Child Development, Divorce / Divorce Adjustment, Grief, Loss, Bereavement, Parenting

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Registered Clinical Psychologist (HK)

Dr. Borschel specializes in Attachment, trauma and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, and loss of finance. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

From Nov 2020 Dr. Borschel is only available for online consultations.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based therapy along with EMDR and Brainspotting enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help her clients to overcome anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology (HKSCP). Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), and the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA).

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