How to Help Children Deal with Separation

Updated on January 23, 2009
A.G. asks from New York, NY
7 answers

My husband and I recently separated. Although I moved out, we are splitting the responsibility of the children. I will have them Monday through Wednesday and he will pick them up Wednesday night until Friday and then we will alternte weekends. My concern is more for my children. My 11 year old daughter appears to be well with it for now and we exlplained to her that it is not her fault in any way but that we need space to work things out and decide if we will continue in a marriage or pursue a divorce. My 5 year old son is in his own world and appears happy when he's with either one of us.
We practice open communication and I fell that I can read my children pretty well. However, how do I make sure that the children are REALLY handling this or just covering up?
I would appreciate any advice.

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answers from New York on

My husband and I have been separated for a little over a month. My kids only see him on Sunday.

They call and speak to him on the phone whenever they like. Also, they say goodnight before bedtime. Mine are a little younger than yours, so we just have said that mommy and daddy need a time out. Sometimes they cry or get sad. I encourage them to talk about how or what they are feeling and then try to do something fun. It usually works.

Its not easy by any means. Be honest and just love them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Dear A.,

I am so sorry about your current situation and I hope that things work out well for you no matter what you decide. is. I was a single mother when my son was 19 months old so I know how you feel right now. I think in some ways it was a little easier for me because my son was so young and basically didn't know any other way. I remarried when he was 3 and because he grew up with my present husband to him that is his dad. My ex chose not to see his son, but that is a whole different story. I think everything you are doing is perfect, keep the lines of communication open and being civil and respectful to each other is the best gift you can give to your children during this trying time. I do not want to sound like I am lecturing but having been a product of divorce and being divorced I have been on both sides. Always remember he is the father of your children so as much as you may disagree with each other at times PLEASE do not ever put their dad down and I am hoping your husband will extend the same respect to you. There is nothing worse then listening to someone saying horrible things about your parents. It really changes who they are and how they will feel about themselves. If you should decide to divorce it will probably get worse before it gets better (once the lawyers get involved) so count to ten and just try not to let your kids know that part of what goes on. It sounds like no matter what your kids will always be a priority to you and you are very in tuned to their feelings so I think if any changes were going on you would be the first to know. Sometimes children do not know how to express their feelings so they will act out, that can be though mood swings, withdrawing from you, etc. I don't think you would miss the signs. I think you should just continue with the way things are right now. I would never tell someone to stay in a marriage if they are no longer in love or happy, but I just want to say make sure you have done everything you can to salvage your marriage. Being a single mom of two kids is not easy. Maybe you can try to figure out what went wrong and find the qualities that you once loved about each other. I know divorce was right for me because my ex didn't want kids and when I got pregnant with my son he really wanted no part of it. I tried to kid myself into thinking he would change and he didn't so there really was nothing to work with for me. Good luck to you and if you need support just reach out we are all her for you!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Sounds like your children are well adjusted. Seems like you did a good job. Dont be paranoid. Go with it. Dont look for problems.



answers from New York on

Sorry you and your husband have reached the point of seperating...hopefully one day you'll get back together.
In the meantime I want to congratulate you and your husband on how you are dealing with the children..

I tend to think you are doing a great job in terms of this with the children. Keep communicating with them...
The more they communicate their feelings, the better it is for them. If there is any cover up, you'd probably notice it first in change of behaviors.

Ask them to draw and color pictures for you..."fridge art"....young children communicate well in their drawings and in the colors they choose to use.
Some children of separated parents might draw houses and family members...leaving out one family member...or putting a family member off in a cornor on the sheet of paper while the others are grouped together....and sometimes they will use muddy colors instead of bright colorful ones...In anycase if you do decide to try this, talk to them about their creative work...ask questions, allowing them to explain in their own words what their picture is about. Most of the time a happy child would have a lengthy happy story to tell about their picture. An unhappy child might not even want to talk about the picture...might even take to coloring over it.. You know your children best, see how it goes.

Since you are a working Mom, have you talked to their teachers about the change in the family unity. Thinking since they spend a good part of the day with your children, they can observe and keep you informed of any changes in behavior or grades droping...

Take care and keep us posted....



answers from New York on

Hi, you sound like you are handling the situation well, however, I would suggest that you see a counselor. A good counselor can help you with doing what is right for your children. He/She can explain what you should be doing and what you should not be doing. A lot of it is common sense but being that your children are the most important thing in the world to you, I'm sure you would agree that it can't hurt to get additional information from a professional. Good luck to you and all my best to you for strength during this difficult time. If you have a difficult ex, the difficult time will last a long, long time. I'm still going through it after over 2 years. Take care.



answers from New York on

Just keep talking to them and let them know they can ask you ANYTHING!!! and then don't freak out if they ask a bizare question. Make sure you don't start to yell or act like they are in trouble if the questions seem inappropriate or whatever. Stay calm and ask what made you ask that. and then try to stay age appropriate and honest in your answers.

I have not had to deal with seperation but we have experienced a miscarriage, a dogs death, 2 horses death and a life threatning accident in the past year and a half (my brother and 9 surgeries later he is finally good and going back to work). My oldest is almost 8 and she has asked some bizare questions in all of this. I have had to come up with some honest, careful answers that sometime require me to tell her let me think about it and get back to her. Make sure you always get back to them!

Honesty is the best policy but that does not mean giving ALL the details just age appropriate and necesary details. Kids are amazing people and understand so much more than we adults give them credit for. A.



answers from Albany on

Hi A., My husband I were seperated for 4 years and are now back together for over 3 years. I think you and your husband made a wise choice and are giving yourselves space. Regarding your little ones, while the arrangement sounds confusing I think you are alleviating a problem that may come out down the road in their lives. By sharing equal time with mom and dad, your children are less likely to feel abandoned by one parent or the other. Even with our reconciliation we are having a problem with my daughter (16) and abandonment. It became really clear when her best friend moved and the emotional toll it took on her was enormous. Her therapist and I agree that the intensity lies in the fact that she felt abandoned by her dad. She only saw him every other weekend. She needed him. She needed a bigger part of him to feel secure.

So, I hope your marriage can be saved but even if it can't don't give up on your difficult (I imagine) but flexible arrangements for your children. You will avoid bigger issues down the road because both you and your husband gave so much when it really counted.

Best Wishes,

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