Supporting Children Through Divorce: The Benefits of Play Therapy

When going through divorce it is important to ensure your children are coping as well as can be expected.

I always suggest my clients seek therapeutic advice for themselves should they feel they need it during challenging times.

This is no different for the children and I am keen to ensure my clients are aware of professional services available to help their children process their feelings about the changes to their family situation.

I have had the opportunity of interviewing Vicki Ivie of The Play Specialist Service who provides emotional and practical support to children and young people through play:

What does your role as a play specialist service involve?

“My role as a Community Play Specialist / Family Systemic Practitioner provides emotional and practical support to children, young people and families through play.  I work with children from birth to 16 yrs old. I usually work with the children within their home environment and ordinarily work with the children on a one to one basis. I can also work with the siblings all together.  Sometimes it is nice to also have a one-off family session to be able to see the dynamics within the family and advise accordingly.”

How could play therapy benefit children whose families are going through divorce?

“Externalising to another person outside the family circle can be beneficial to most children as sometimes they are worried about talking to their parents through a fear of; taking sides, not wanting to upset either parent, becoming the “middle man” or feeling and thinking “this is their fault”.  Some don’t have the words, so through play and creativity can express themselves better and more freely.  It is crucial that children and their families understand there is someone who is concerned about them and loves them very much and wants to make sure they are okay in a changing situation. Their “secure base” is not as secure as it was but will stabilise again soon, in a different way, in the meantime the families want the children to try and find a “new safe” that works for them all.

Trust can and may also have been broken between the children and parents so having the children establishing new relationships can be difficult for them.  Working alongside me, they establish a new relationship (which is a part of growing up and change) and this is beneficial to their all-round care.”

Can you give some examples of work you’ve done with children going through their parents’ divorce?

“I have worked with siblings aged 6 and 9 years old who live with their Mother.  They see their Father every 2 weeks.  I worked with them for approximately 2 / 3 weeks establishing a relationship with them in a fun way and then moved onto more therapeutic work.  I used a Family Therapy model “sculpting” where we used stones to represent ourselves and members in the family. The closer the stones the closer the relationships.  It was interesting to see (and for the boys too) that the boys had a different view of their relationship with their parents than they had thought by the positioning of the stones. We repeated this exercise 3 months later and was fascinated to see how much had changed.  The parents, in the boy’s eyes had got closer.”

What 3 top tips can you give divorcing parents to ensure they are supporting their children through the divorce?

“1.  Keep yourself safe – You, as parents are going through a very difficult time and are probably trying to stop your children going through the pain too.  They will be going through it with you on a different level but trying to keep yourself emotionally safe will be a good way forward.  Do you have a therapist, counsellor, someone who you can confide in on neutral territory that you can express yourself too when needed?

2.  Patterns of behaviour – What patterns of behaviour have been passed down to you from your parents / grandparents?  How would you describe your own parent’s relationship? What have you tried to make similar or different in your relationship?  Why? How do you see your relationship with your children? What modelling are you showing your children in relationship building for their future?

3.  Love / Emotional Availability – Show them you love them (this doesn’t have to be materialistic).  Spend time with them.  Create memories together, take photographs. Be on time. Listen to them, how their day has gone.”


To find out more about Vicki Ivie’s work, see her website here


In my work as a divorce consultant, I work closely with my clients to support and guide them not only through the legal process but also with the practical and emotional issues that arise from their divorce. To find out more about how I could help you in your situation, please get in touch here and for full details of the different types of help I can provide, please see my Services page on the website. 


If you have found the tips in this blog useful then you will find lots more in my ebook “Tips for Coping with Divorce” which you can download here: free ebook.

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