Parenting Partnerships: What happens when you’re not in love?

I sat in a recent meeting with staff who were worried about the welfare of the children they work with due to family issues. We have been around long enough to know all understand that many relationships will not last a lifetime. The one relationship that will affect you for your lifetime is the one you have with your children. My staff turned to me to ask me to write about the difficulties of a split family and how that split can affect children. I admit- I have never been more apprehensive to write about a topic. This topic causes me a great deal of pain.

I have a son who is a father of a wonderful little boy. Our son lives 7 hours away from his dad and me. He transferred colleges to be nearer to his son and his (at the time) girlfriend. His relationship with his girlfriend has ended which has been a heartbreak for him to deal with. On top of the ending of the romantic relationship, my grandson’s mom believes in controlling and limiting time for her child with his father. I am unable to speculate the reasoning for this. Obviously, my perspective is likely flawed as my son feels the result of her actions the most and I will always support him. All I know is my son chose to move away from his family and friends to a different country to be a dad to his son. I wish he could be a dad all of the time.

I can speak as to how that relationship affects him and our family as a whole. When promoted to grandparent, most people have an overwhelming sense of joy. I felt fear. I realized that my son’s heart now lived outside of his body in the body of his son. Being a mom, I understood the vulnerability of the parenting relationship. I have watched my son be denied the opportunity to see his son over and over and over. Many times, he isn’t allowed to speak to or FaceTime with his son for weeks. Watching his despair and longing to see his little boy can be crushing. As an educator, I often think how this will affect this beautiful, bright little boy over his lifetime.

I imagine he has no understanding of why his daddy disappears for long periods of time. I wonder if he will replace his daddy in his heart? Will he ever be allowed to have the security of attachment to his father? Will he feel he has been discarded? What is he hearing about daddy at home?

In preschool, we see all too often how children are affected by broken homes or homes that are in the process of breaking. When we walk into a classroom, it’s easy for us to spot kids that are losing stability in their homes. We hear it in how they interact with teachers and their classmates. We see it when they encounter scary situations like storms or fire drills. We see the struggle in children who have not had an opportunity to establish routines in their own home as their routine changes daily. We work hard to help all kids feel safe, cared for, and important. The task is much more difficult to accomplish with children going through a family break up.

As a parent, what can you do? First priority always-Keep your kids safe. Safe from the emotional baggage you carry in a relationship. Kids don’t need to know about your marriage and its’ challenges. Love your child enough to respect their feelings for their parents (both of them). Take advantage of mental health services if needed for you and your children. If you come to the conclusion that you need to end a relationship, be confident that you have done everything in your power to make it work before you let go. Be friends with your co parent. When you value parenting, your children will feel safe in their love of both of their parents. Make decisions about your children from love. Teachers, counselors, and friends are in your life to support you. Reach out for help when you need it.

From the perspective of mom and grandma, I want to remind you that decisions you make affect not only your children but all of the people who love and care for them. There is a definite ripple affect. As a grandma, when I come across something cute in a store, I would love to grab it and buy it without wondering if I will ever see my grand baby use it. My heart breaks a piece every time I want to buy a toy and choose not to because he may outgrow the toy before I see him again. In the complicated world we live in, allow your children to fill their lives with love from everyone especially when you no longer love your co parent.

Why especially? Because when the world your children know is breaking, they need more love and support than you will be capable of giving to them. The fact is when you made the decision to become a parent, you committed to putting the needs of another human being ahead of your own needs. Your child’s first need is security and that is established by love in many different relationships. Allow your child the opportunity for love and happiness by teaching them the value of relationships and realize those relationships may include people that you no longer love. This can be challenging- but face it…..Challenging sums up parenting perfectly!

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