My son is struggling with separating his time between his parents

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  • #63636 Report


    Hi all, I’ve been separated for nearly 4 years and on the whole my son (8) has seemed to cope with it really well. He spends 4 nights a week with me, and 3 with his dad. He can be an anxious boy, and seems to be having a bit of a wobbly  phase.  He’s been talking a bit about missing me (and his daddy) when he’s at school, and has now also started talking about how he misses me when he’s with his dad, and vice versa.  He said it’s been hard for him since we broke up – it’s the first time he’s really talked about this – and that he’s sad he doesn’t get to spend time with us both.  We did a bit of this for the first couple of years – taking him out jointly for tea or to the park – but that stopped over covid, then his dad had a baby with his new partner, so has had other priorities.

    I’ve suggested to his dad that we start doing this again, which he’s agreed to ‘occasionally’ as he doesn’t want to confuse our son and also says it’s hard to find time.  I feel our son is pretty clear that we’re separated (divorced now) and don’t feel this will confuse him; I think he needs the security of having time with his mummy and daddy together – he’s said that other children get that and he doesn’t, which makes me so sad that he sees his life is different and doesn’t like it.

    My ex and are are civil and cooperative when sorting out things regarding our son, but we’re not friendly and it’s tense.  Neither of us would choose to spend time with the other!  I’m disappointed he doesn’t want to commit to more regular meet ups, and it feels like he’s not prioritising his son’s needs, something I’ve felt a few times – he’s a good dad and loves him, but I feel like his ‘new’ family committments take priority for him.

    Has anyone been in a similar situation?

    #63669 Report

    My 8 year old daughter is going through the same, not sure what’s brought it on as she’s been fine until now

    #63720 Report


    My boys have both felt variations on this: feeling it’s too long between seeing each parent, or longing for that happy secure feeling of being with both parents at once.

    You sound like a wonderful, sensitive, caring mum, by the way.

    My ex and I haven’t been able to continue that civil contact for the sake of the boys. The few times we tried it were miserably tense. I don’t think they succeeded in recreating the secure family feeling!

    I guess that I would remind my kids (and myself!) that different kids have different advantages in life. Whenever you don’t have some advantage that others do, take it as an opportunity to grow stronger. And then remember the things that you do have, which other kids might not.

    I think it’s not intuitive to adopt this attitude when a big chunk of your heart is in complete agreement with the longing your son is experiencing! But we have to try.

    #63848 Report


    Thanks so much red23 – a few people have mentioned to me that he has advantages that some other kids don’t.  He’s very loved and cared for by both sides. This is a really useful message to try and remember 🙂

    I think my sadness for him probably echoes my own feelings, which are that my life hasn’t gone how I planned.  Not that I want my ex back in any way, but I am still struggling with the effects of the divorce – not seeing my son everyday and missing out on things in his life, and being lonely myself.

    #63850 Report


    Sometimes we have to admit defeat. I tried hard over the years to continue some kind of patchwork family, for many reasons, some conscious, some subconscious. Attending school events together, Christmas service, pool sessions, athletics events. Taking the children to her first 5k run to cheer her up. I still think it was the right thing to do.   But it didn’t change the trajectory for the path we were on. In the end, it were the children who put an end to it. So my advice, from my experience, try as long as you feel comfortable with it and trust, that your child will voice his feelings on the way. And then act according to your own and his.

    #63955 Report


    On a practical level, you could also encourage things which bring a connection with the absent parent- like gifts from one parent which can stay in the other parent’s house, or phonecalls, texts and photos.

    For yourself, you can try to use the time apart to prepare for the time together. (E.g. all the laundry is already done and there’s fresh cookie dough in the fridge ready to bake together…!)

    The bigger message we’re teaching them is how to roll with the punches when life doesn’t go to plan. And show him how strong you can be alone, to give him all the security he needs.

    I feel those pangs of that sadness you describe every time I part ways with my kids for more than a day or two… But I like to think I manage to pull my socks up a bit faster each time it happens 🙂 And keep finding more positive, creative outlets.

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