When you and your child’s other parent don’t live together

Posted by Samantha on July 21, 2012 in Guilt, Hope, Parenting Dilemmas, Separation and Divorce, Worry |

Ought a child have access to a parent who does not live with them?  My simple answer is yes.  Except when the better answer is no.

And it really is that ‘grey’ a situation in my opinion.

There are times, heart-breaking though it may be, when the better course of action may be for a child to have no contact with a parent for a time.

And there are certainly situations where a child ought to have more contact, difficult though that might be for the parent who would prefer to limit or eliminate contact with an estranged partner.

In all of these situations my heart goes out to the parents and children who live with the consequences of relationship breakdown.

Many parents are now raising their children while living apart.

For these parents the issue of how much contact is enough contact, for both the parent who does not live with the child, and for the child herself, is gut-wrenchingly difficult.

So difficult in fact, that many people prefer not to look at it too closely.  They do their best, and hope for the best.  I’m reminded of the lovely Michelle Pfeiffer quote:

“Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, hold our breath, and hope we’ve set aside enough money to pay for our kids’ therapy.”

Still others are plagued by feelings of guilt that no matter what arrangement they have come to, their children will be damaged* by the breakdown of their relationship.

There are no easy solutions to this question of contact after relationship breakdown.  What is “best” for one parent may not be “best” for the other.  What works for the parents may not be in the best interests of the child or children.

There are a few things that are worth bearing in mind as you try to decide what to do.

  1. Children are hurt – heartbroken – by the failure of their parents to keep their relationship together.
  2. Children are also hurt (yes, heartbroken) by the failure of their parents to keep their relationship harmonious – that is, free of conflict – whether their parents are together or apart.
  3. Healing from this hurt and heartbreak is possible.

Whatever you decide to do, your child may grow up to believe you made the wrong decision.  Hopefully, they won’t believe that forever.

Hopefully, your child will decide to heal the hurt that their upbringing caused them.  Hopefully, your relationship with them will stand the test of time – no matter what choices you make about contact.

If you keep your child’s best interests in the forefront of your mind, and take care to balance their needs with your own, it ought to work out ok.

There is not one of us who has not got childhood pain to heal.

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*For parents who find they have this difficulty I offer the idea that you substitute the word “hurt” for the word “damaged” and re-read the Michelle Pfeiffer quote and my 3 numbered points above.  Remember: hurt is an inevitable part of life….try not to be too hard on yourself….

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