• To be loved and supported by both parents.
  • To know that even though my parents no longer want to live in the same house, they still love me and that I will get to spend time with each of them. And that my parents are doing everything possible to sort this out (amicably) so I can get used to the new living arrangements as soon as possible.
  • To never hear my parents argue, especially about me. I may act cool, but inside my stomach is a knot and I feel miserable and responsible.
  • To know my parents can communicate together, civilly, and work out what is best for me. And as I get older to be involved in some of those decisions when appropriate.
  • To be allowed to spend fun time with each of my parents and not to feel guilty about it.
  • To never hear a negative comment about one of my parents –from anyone. And preferably to hear nice comments. This one is REALLY important to me. When I hear negative things about one parent I feel guilty and as if I am expected to take sides.
  • Although I may sometimes say something negative about one parent in front of the other, I would like my parents to stop me and ask me not to speak badly of my Mum or Dad (even if they are secretly delighted). Sometimes I say things I don’t mean because I am in a bad mood, confused or because I know that one parent is desperate for me to dislike the other.  I would like my parents to listen, empathise with my feelings and if I am struggling to ask what solutions I could come up with. But not to go along with me stating that my other parent is bad. I think this will be the hardest thing for my parents to do.
  • Not to have one parent accused of harming me just to stop me from seeing them. I would want professional advice to be sought if someone was worried but just because my parents don’t get on with each other it does not mean that either are bad parents or child abusers. (I have heard that loads of good parents are accused of abuse at some time, and it is often because of depression and/or stress when going through a divorce).
  • To want me to be happy wherever I am. This includes when I am with my other parent. I am going to be happier if my parents are not distracted by unnecessary conflict and there is enough money no matter who I am with to meet my basic needs (and have a little fun). When one parent is consumed by conflict or money worries it affects me too. If each of my parents can find it in their hearts to want the other parent to be happy for my sake, it will make life much easier for me.
  • Not to feel that my parents have to compete for my love. I love both of my parents. No one can take away the fact that they are my Mum and Dad. Warts and all. I just want to feel free to have a good relationship with each of them.
  • Not to feel like I am being quizzed about what I did with my other parent. Especially not to feel judged or guilty for enjoying the time I spent with them.
  • Not to feel my other parent is being judged for something they did or didn’t do. Just explain the situation in a factual way without being negative about my other parent. When I am older I will judge for myself which parent I want to spend more time with, and it will be WAY more likely to be a parent who is not critical.
  • Not to be asked to pass messages between my parents
  • Not to be involved in any argument between my parents. Ever. That includes custody battles, court cases, financial arrangements and differences in parenting styles.  It makes me feel I am expected to side with one parent against the other and makes me confused, guilty and miserable.
  • To understand that I have half my Mum’s genes and half my Dad’s. Feeling that one parent is bad makes me feel bad.
  • To be loved just for who I am. Not because I do anything or am anything. I have lots of emotions going round in my head and sometimes I feel useless, guilty or bad. I need to know that my parents accept me just the way I am.
  • To be allowed to miss my other parent when they are not with me. To be allowed to receive (nice) messages from the parent I am not with and to be allowed some way of communicating with them when I want to. (Although I understand if I can’t ring them every time I am upset or annoyed at something)
  • To know that my parents understand my confused feelings. That I often miss the parent I am not with, that I sometimes say things I don’t mean, especially when I am being disciplined or try to play one parent off against the other. Hey, I’m only human!
  • Not to feel guilty or responsible for the emotions of my parents. I have enough emotions of my own thank you!
  • Not to feel like I have to be a best friend or advisor for either of my parents. Adult friends and relatives are best for this. It is hard enough for me to be emotionally secure without feeling I need to meet my parent’s emotional needs. This includes telling me all about the divorce, keeping me up late, sleeping in the same bed and providing comfort when my parents cry.
  • Not to be forced to grow up too quickly. I am still a child and rely on the adults around me to work out (preferably together) what I need and how I should be parented. And to give me the right sort of information at the right time.

Access / contact

  • To see both of my parents regularly and for the handover to be polite and conflict-free.
  • For both of my parents to be reliable about seeing me -turning up when they say they will and returning me to the other parent at the right time.
  • If one parent is not good at staying in contact I need my other parent to be understanding at how devastated that makes me feel.
  • For my parents to make everything as easy as possible for me to have contact with each of them where possible. If there is any risk to me I would still like to see both parents regularly, even if it is in a contact centre.
  • Where possible to be able to spend good quantities of time with each parent, especially sharing weekends and holidays. I will grow up to be much more balanced if I can have good relationships with two parents.
  • To know what is happening to me in the days and weeks to come. I want to know what is going to be happening, which parent I will be with and preferably as much as possible about what we will be doing together.
  • To have special days sorted out fairly like my actual birthday or Christmas day.
  • To know that if one parent is not with me I can contact them, but not to be made to feel guilty if I don’t. Sometimes I get distracted or forget – If I am having a nice time I don’t want to feel guilty for forgetting to make a call.


  • To know as much as possible about each parent. I would love to have some photos of them and maybe some of us together. I would like to know where they live, what they do and what their current circumstances are. If they are not in contact I would like my other parent to understand how empty and sad that makes me feel, and let me express that without feeling awkward.
  • To have what is happening to be explained in a child-friendly way that is appropriate to my age. If you don’t know something, tell me. But let me know when it will be sorted out. I need to know that both my parents love me, that I will continue to see them regularly and who I will be staying with and when.

Life skills

  • To be taught about managing conflict, standing up for myself and being assertive. If I do have problems when I am not with my parents, I need to be armed with skills so I can deal with them myself – not feel helpless.
  • To be encouraged to find solutions to my own problems. Sometimes I feel that my parents don’t understand that I am growing up and could deal with situations myself with their help and support. I need to learn how to manage conflict and be assertive, so I don’t feel like a victim.
  • Not to be protected and wrapped in cotton wool. I am not a baby. I want to feel capable, independent, and able to achieve things. I don’t want either of my parents to feel that smothering me with love is going to make up for the hurt of their divorce. I want to have the freedom to grow up and be taught the skills I need to be street-wise and confident.
  • To make some contribution to the household. I am quite capable of doing a few jobs around the house and taking responsibility for things. I need to develop confidence in my own abilities, so please teach me how to do things and expect me to do jobs regularly. After all, I need to get more independent and capable to be able to thrive.

Practical Things

  • To know that my basic needs can be met when I am with either of my parents.
  • To have my living arrangements sorted out as quickly as possible so that I can adjust to life with my parents living separately.
  • For both of my parents to be interested in what happens to me when I am at school and to talk with my teacher about my progress, and anything they can do to help me at home.
  • To know that both parents will be involved in important decisions like where I go to school, what activities I should do and to be involved in any hospital appointments.
  • To have both parents there at important events in my life, like school plays and birthday parties without any conflict. Please. And I want to be able to speak to both of them and hug them and not feel guilty because it is my special day.


  • I need my parents to be in charge and to take responsibility for what is happening. Although I may misbehave more or get angry or upset, I need my parents to be parents and provide rules, structure, boundaries and good parenting skills to help guide me.
  • To have parents who are interested in ME – how I am feeling, what I enjoy, my favourite things to do, my five top…(foods, bands, colours, toys, books, films, etc.)
  • To have routines – I need structure at the moment to my day. I want to know what times my meals are going to be, what my bedtime is and anything else that will happen regularly, like school.  I would prefer it if it was the same no matter which parent I am with, although I can adapt to different rules in different houses.
  • To have boundaries – I need to know that my parents will act to stop me behaving badly. I would like there to be rules for my behaviour with rewards when I can follow the rules and fair, consistent consequences when I can’t.
  • To have fun, quality time with each of my parents. It helps distract me from everything that is going on. I love playing with each of my parents, having special time and talking together.
  • To be encouraged to talk about my feelings. For both of my parents to pick up on cues when I feel angry, frustrated or low. For them to help me label my emotions and for them to encourage me to talk to understand why I am feeling that way.
  • For both of my parents to look after themselves emotionally and physically so that they are in the best possible shape to care for me. I have heard that it can take two years to get over a divorce – that is a long time if my parents are not looking after themselves.
  • For my parents to help me understand that I am not the centre of the universe. If I am to grow up to be a nice person I will need to sometimes learn that adults have needs too, and to learn how to share, lose games and take turns with other children. I will also need to learn how to care for other children and people, and to help out rather than always just have fun.
  • Although I am going through a tough time, I can bounce back from this. I need love and time more than the latest gadget. The quality of time I spend with each parent is WAY more important than the things they can buy for me.
  • To know that both of my parents have good parenting skills to get me through this. If my parents are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed or angry they sometimes don’t remember how I am feeling. I need them to have the skills to talk to me, care for me, comfort me and discipline me when I need it so I can grow up happy and well-adjusted after their divorce. Even though they are doing their best for me I would love both of my parents to go on the best parenting course they can find.

Oh and lastly – I want to have some fun. This is hard enough for me. I want to have a lovely time when I am with either of my parents to build up some happy memories. I think both me and my parents need it at the moment!

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here

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