Parenting Time & Decision Making

Minimizing the Impact of Divorce on Children in Ontario: Strategies and Signs of Distress

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Divorce can be a challenging experience for everyone involved, especially for children. In 2024, as families in Ontario navigate through these changes, understanding how to minimize the impact on children and recognizing signs of distress becomes crucial. This article explores effective strategies to support children during a divorce and identifies signs that may indicate they are struggling to cope with the new family dynamics.

Strategies to Support Children Through Divorce

  1. Maintain Open Communication: Keep an open and honest dialogue with your children about the divorce, tailored to their age and maturity. Ensure they understand they are not to blame and that both parents will continue to love and support them.
  2. Provide Stability and Routine: Try to maintain consistency in their daily routines. Stability in living arrangements, schooling, and extracurricular activities can provide a sense of security and normalcy.
  3. Co-Parent Effectively: Commit to cooperative co-parenting where both parents work together to make decisions in the best interest of the children. Avoid conflict in front of the children and never use them as messengers or leverage.
  4. Encourage Expression of Feelings: Let your children know it’s okay to talk about their feelings and that you’re there to listen. Validate their emotions and provide comfort.

Signs of Distress in Children

  1. Changes in Behavior: Watch for changes in behavior such as increased aggression, withdrawal, or regression to earlier developmental stages (e.g., bedwetting in a previously toilet-trained child).
  2. Emotional Symptoms: Increased anxiety, sadness, or signs of depression can manifest in various ways, including tearfulness, irritability, or mood swings.
  3. Academic and Social Issues: Declines in academic performance or changes in relationships with peers might indicate your child is struggling to cope with the divorce.
  4. Physical Symptoms: Stress can also manifest physically. Look for signs like changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, or frequent headaches and stomachaches.

Seeking Help and Support in Ontario

  1. Child Counseling: Professional counselors or therapists who specialize in children can provide valuable support, helping them to understand and express their emotions healthily.
  2. School Support: Inform teachers and school counselors about the divorce so they can provide additional support and watch for any signs of distress.
  3. Parenting Programs: Consider enrolling in parenting programs that offer strategies for supporting children through divorce. These programs can provide valuable guidance and connect you with other parents in similar situations.
  4. Family Therapy: Family therapy can be beneficial in helping the entire family communicate better and work through the changes together.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Prioritize Your Child’s Well-being: Always put your child’s emotional and physical well-being first. The decisions you make during and after the divorce should prioritize minimizing their stress and maintaining their stability.

Be Patient: Understand that each child will cope with divorce differently and on their own timeline. Be patient, keep communication open, and provide consistent support.

Take Care of Yourself: You can better support your children when you’re emotionally healthy. Don’t hesitate to seek support for yourself, whether it’s therapy, support groups, or leaning on friends and family.


Divorce represents a significant change for a family, and children can be particularly vulnerable during this time.

Michelle Mulchan, Senior Managing Lawyer

In Ontario, parents can take proactive steps to minimize the impact on their children by maintaining open communication, providing stability, and seeking professional support when needed. By being attentive to their needs and signs of distress, you can help your children navigate through the divorce more resiliently and emerge stronger on the other side.

Remember, the support and understanding you provide now will significantly influence their ability to adjust and thrive in the future.

Stay in Touch

Keep learning about the latest issues in Ontario family law! Subscribe to our newsletter, have our latest articles delivered to your inbox, or listen to our Podcast Family Law Now.

Be sure to find out more about the "new normal", by visiting our Covid-19 and Divorce Information Centre.

About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.