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Advice from Dr. Stanwix: Messy Separation

Advice from Dr. Stanwix: Messy Separation
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

My husband and I have recently separated and this has caused some serious logistical problems in how we deal with our children. We are trying to make this separation as amicable and anxiety-free as possible so we don’t put any undue stress on them, but it seems inevitable.

I live in our house and my husband now lives in an apartment on the other side of our town. He takes the children every other weekend and on Monday and Tuesday. We hoped by making this a permanent schedule we would not disrupt their lives too much.

Unfortunately, they are not adapting to this new arrangement very well. They constantly complain about having to change houses. They love their father, but they don’t like to stay at his apartment because they have to share a room. They also don’t like having to bring their things back and forth between their two homes. A lot of their schoolwork and things get lost in the shuffle.

Between the stress of our separation and moving between two places they must consider home, our children are starting to act out in school and have problems with their classmates. Do you have any recommendations to help us through this difficult time?


Messy Separation

Dear Messy Separation,

Your separation is not nearly as messy as some of the other couples I have counseled. I am happy to hear that you are doing everything possible to make this separation easy on your children. Many parents are too caught up in their own dilemmas to properly consider the effect their separation has on their children. It’s important that you put aside your differences and your rancor so that this is as easy on them as possible.

Unfortunately, as much as we try to make this a smooth process, it never is. If it is not emotional duress, stress will emerge from some of the logistical elements of the separation. Children need a stable home environment to flourish. When that stability is threatened, they do what your children are doing; they act out to get attention.

One suggestion I have is that you have your children stay at your family house and that you and your husband switch residences. I realize this will be difficult for both of you and will add stress to your lives, but it seems to me to be a logical solution.

By letting them stay at the house, you create much needed stability in their lives. You also ease the stress of your separation. Although not always at the same time, they will see you both in the family home and that will greatly reduce the anxiety of the separation. It will also make their lives easier because they won’t have to traipse back and forth between two homes with their belongings like little nomads.

I realize that this may put unnecessary stress on you and your husband. However, as adults, you can handle stress better. It was also your decision to separate, so you should be willing to bear the brunt of the inconvenience that your separation entails.

Best of Luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix




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