Emerging Minds

Supporting children's mental health when working with separating parents

About the course

Supporting children’s mental health when working with separating parents focuses on making children’s wellbeing a central aspect of the conversations practitioners have with parents who are going through separation or divorce.

We’ll outline the potential impacts of relationship separation on parents and their parenting. We’ll also consider the potential impacts of parental separation on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

A key concept informing this course is that parents are highly influential in how children experience parental separation and its consequences for their everyday lives. Although difficult, parental separation doesn’t have to be distressing or traumatic for children.

We’ll highlight some of the common assumptions and messages about separation and divorce that circulate in the Australian context and outline their consequences for how parents, children and practitioners respond to parental separation.

The course also describes some ideas for four key aspects of practice:

  • Supporting parents’ wellbeing
  • Supporting parenting and the parent–child relationship
  • Supporting parents to support their children; and
  • Supporting children through parental separation.

As a foundation course, Supporting children’s mental health when working with separating parents does not detail specific therapeutic practices for working with parents navigating relationship separation or their children. Throughout the course, you’ll be invited to consider the implications of your learning for your own practice context.

If you are presently working with a parent who is separated or navigating separation and/or the child of separated or separating parents, Emerging Minds Families has developed resources for parents that reflect the key aspects of practice described in this course. The resources offer information and advice about ways parents can lessen the impacts of separation on their child/ren, including strategies and supports that other parents who have navigated separation found helpful.

You may like to review and refer parents to these resources:
Supporting your child’s wellbeing during a separation or divorce

Family and domestic violence

This course covers responding to parental separation where there is not a history of family and domestic violence. However, it highlights the importance of engaging separating parents in conversations about the safety, wellbeing and support needs of their children when living with the ongoing effects of family violence.

Lived experience

Parents with lived experience of separation and divorce were consulted about their experiences, and those of their children, to inform the development of this online course.

Who is this course for?

This course will support a broad range of practitioners in health, social and community services who have contact with parents during separation and divorce, but who work outside of specialist family dispute resolution or counselling services.

It recognises that practitioners who are not trained in family dispute resolution or counselling – including GPs, social workers, allied health professionals and teachers – often have contact with parents during separation. Sometimes, they are the first or only impartial people that separating parents see during this period. These practitioners have an important role in supporting parents, the parent–child relationship, and children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Learning aims/outcomes

This course aims to:

  • increase your understanding of the potential impacts of separation on parents, the parent–child relationship, and children’s mental health and wellbeing
  • enable you to reflect on common assumptions about separation and divorce and their impact on parents and children, and on your own practice approach
  • support you to make children’s wellbeing a central aspect of your conversations with parents who are navigating separation or divorce
  • challenge you to extend your existing practice skills to support parents’ wellbeing, to support parents in parenting their children, and to support children through parental separation.


It is estimated that this course will take you approximately two hours to complete, including reading material and watching videos.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow these self-care tips and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or SANE Australia on 1800 187 263.


For the purposes of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

Social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.1

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

Social and emotional wellbeing is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.4

Family dispute resolution refers to a mediation process in which an independent family dispute resolution practitioner helps separating families come to their own agreements regarding separation-related issues, including parenting agreements.

Separated refers to parental separation or divorce. It applies to parents who are/were married or in de facto relationships.

Separating refers both to parents who are currently undergoing separation and those who have already separated but are still managing the consequences of separation.


This course draws on the latest research, clinical insights, and the lived experience of our child and family partners. We’d like to thank the professionals and families who played an integral role in shaping this course, generously offering their time, wisdom and unique perspectives.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Ștefan, C. A., Dănilă, I., & Cristescu, D. (2022). Classroom-wide school interventions for preschoolers’ social-emotional learning: A systematic review of evidence-based programs. Educational Psychology Review, 34(4), 2971–3010.
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing 2017-2023. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6.
  3. Everymind. (n.d.). Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Newcastle, NSW: Everymind.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children 2012. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra, ACT: AIHW.

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