( dpa ) - Couples considering a divorce should be open and honest with their children, Germany's Professional Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists advises.
It's important to explain to a child in terms they can understand what situation the family is in.
"In most cases, parents do their best to protect their offspring and don't tell them anything about the changes about to take place within the family," says Christa Schaff, the association's chairwoman.
Schaff says that children interpret a parental separation as a threat to their security and often believe they are responsible for the conflict between mother and father.
"Children should be made aware that their mother and father will remain their parents, even though the marriage has ended and the parents no longer live together."
It should also be made clear that the children bear no responsibility for the divorce and they themselves are not being separated from a parent, recommends Schaff.
Young children experiencing their parents' divorce often have problems with hygiene as well as aggression and often cry.
"Primary school children usually have mood swings as well as short term problems with their educational performance," says Schaff.
The psychological strain of a divorce can also manifest itself in physical complaints such as tummy pain and headaches.
Young adults are better at separating their own relationship to either the mother or father from their parent's relationship to each other.
But even teenage children can react to the stress of divorce with psychological and physical problems.