Parenting programs that support children’s mental health through family separation


In Australia, 1 in 4 children experience parental separation before the age of 18. Children can experience multiple and complex reactions to family separation or divorce. There is strong evidence to show that in comparison to children from intact families, children of separated parents are at greater risk of a range of poor outcomes, including academic difficulties, behaviour problems, substance misuse, and severe and persistent mental health difficulties.

Evidence consistently demonstrates that most of the negative consequences of parental separation for children are not due to the separation per se but rather due to factors that can accompany separation, especially parental acrimony and conflict. Supporting parents to understand the impact of parental separation on children, to engage in effective parenting practices throughout separation, and to develop functional co-parenting relationships can mitigate the negative effects of separation and contribute to better outcomes for children and the family.

Based on a recent CFCA paper, this presentation will discuss the effects of parental conflict and separation on children’s wellbeing and outline the challenges that can arise when supporting families through this transition. It will present the common elements of evidence-based parenting programs that support children’s (aged 0–12 years) mental health through parental separation and the implications for practitioners in diverse sectors.

The presentation will invite participants to consider how they can use evidence on ‘what works’ to inform their approaches to practice. It will encourage participants to continue to develop ways of working with parents to support children’s mental health through family separation.


MacDonald, J. B. (2022). Parenting programs that support children’s mental health through family separation. Family & Relationship Services Conference, 16–19 May. Adelaide, Australia. (Paper)