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Children and parental separation

Community Member


I am fairly certain that I want to separate from my partner (I use that term lightly!). We have 2 primary school aged children.

They are very attached to me and even going out on my own in the day for a couple of hours or out for dinner and drinks with a friend at night time upsets them so much (they also couldn’t give two hoots if their dad goes out or even goes away for work for a few days). So getting out of the house is a struggle without some form of meltdown and then I of course feel really guilty for going out.

How will they be happy and okay if we do separate and have a 50/50 care arrangement (or even a 10 night, 4 night fortnightly split). How would I leave them for that long and that often - would they cope okay? I would feel guilty for that period each fortnight, not knowing if they’re okay.

One of the reasons I’m considering separating is that I don’t agree with his parenting style. It’s completely authoritarian & emotionally devoid. No amount of conversations I have make him change his mind and he doesn’t see anything wrong with his parenting. So my 2nd concern is - I don’t like the idea that they would spend between 4-7 days a fortnight with him parenting that way. It would mean his parenting isn’t visible to me and I can’t comfort them when he’s being unreasonable. If this takes place, it would make it even harder for them to say goodbye to me if they feel they’re going somewhere that they aren’t valued or listened to.

I’m looking for advice from single parents of your experiences. Do kids who have an absolute parental preference start to feel okay away from their preferred parent?

How do kids cope if they’re with a parent who isn’t tending to their emotions? Is the time spent with me going to be enough to make up for the lack of emotion when they’re away from me?

I also have NO idea how we would co-parent as we parent so differently & even now that we are together he’s not willing to change his parenting style, so I hardly think he will change if we are separated.

Have your kids had to go to counselling to get through your separation?

Those of you with older kids, did they struggle at first and are they okay now they’re teenagers or adults?

I suffer from anxiety so I could be catastrophising this all, or maybe I’m being realistic? I know it won’t be easy by any stretch for anyone if we separate, but I want to make sure if I do this that the kids will be okay, that I’m not messing them up for life. Thank you for listening.

9 Replies 9

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

I liked your last paragraph. You are open to opinions.

In 1996 I became a part time dad - 2 days a fortnight plus much more in school holidays.

My first several weeks as a single part time dad was horrific. Their mother was really lazy. I worked 3 jobs so she could be a stay at home mum but still I took the kids to school etc so she could sleep in.

I kept ringing the kids principle asking if our kids made it to school on time, then one day broke down in the phone with worry. The principal said “children are more resilient than adults Tony, so relax. “ and they were. They do adapt.

Im reserved with your dissatisfaction of your partners parenting ideas, because he might not like your techniques either. He is a parent like you and you have no extra ownership of your children over him. I’m sorry if my thoughts upset you but I think he has rights also and they are equal. Many parents have parenting differences so compromise is necessary.

At around 12yo children can live with who they please. My eldest came to live with me for example. Her mother was really angry and never forgave her to this day- my daughter is now 31yo and hasn’t seen her mother for 14 years.

Kids feel their way with parents. Their dad will see them less so likely he’ll be more loving. If he remains over harsh they will eventually not want to visit. I suggest however that it is far more beneficial for you to encourage them to maintain a good relationship with their dad and be a resolver of disputes if possible.

Your children must learn to not be so distraught upon separating from you. This could be achieved by day one day visit to days on every second weekend and to compensate for that list day, dad could take them out for dinner on a Wednesday night. This worked well for my ex and I. Fish and chips Wednesday nights and one full Saturday take them back Sunday morning meant seeing them more often but shorter periods. But only until they felt ok to stay full weekends.

Hope that helps


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

I agree with what Tony has said and are more resilient then you think.I have two children they are ages are 8y.o and 16 y.o now.It was very hard for my daughter when i first seperated and moved at when she was primary school age.I use to talk to her on the phone and she use to cry wanting me to come home.I did move 2 hours awsy that didnt help.She got use to it an enjoyed spending the time together.I did move closer to be with them and now have them friday to monday and most of the school holidays.My kids both have specisl needs but they dont have a problem with living in two houses.I try and keep the same routine as they have at their mothers like meals and baths at the same time as there.It is what the kids psychiatrist recommended to keep a routine for them.I think it is important for the kids to spend time with both parents.You both have two different parenting styles which will be something they will have to adjust to.It is a hard thing to do at first but you all will adjust to it.

Take care,


Community Member

Hi A-squared,

I am facing a situation similar to yours, so I am not speaking from experience but from what I plan to do. Our parenting styles are also becoming more divergent and this has contributed to the relationship breakdown. I'm not sure what this will look like, but I'm going to try and write something in to our parenting plan around discipline, punishment, routines, etc that at least provides an agreed upon foundation for me to work from if this isn't upheld. I feel like that's all I can do. My own mother experienced years of guilt about how we were coping when left with our Dad and I fear that's just part of the territory. But you will be able to handle it. You will learn how to focus that feeling of guilt into constructive ideas for making your children's lives better in other ways, and you will give yourself a break.

Thank you Tony for your reply. It sounds like you’ve been able to find a way that works for you both.

I know that even if apart I can’t expect all to be my way, I’m just worried that because he treats them like I was treated as a child, and I’m still trying to figure it all out (how to express my emotions and understanding that my emotions are just as valid as anyone else’s and how to stick up for myself) I just don’t want them to end up like me.

Thank you white knight. That’s so great your kids have learned to deal with being away from each parent for a period of time. Do they have many memories about life when you were still together or is this just their new normal that the ‘old’ life is in the past for them?

Sorry I’m getting confused with who I’m responding to! This reply above was meant for White Knight

Sorry Matchy, my reply above was for you; I’m getting confused who I’m replying to.

Hi A

Its ok being confused lol.

My kids were 7 and 4yo when I separated following a suicide attempt. The eldest remembers some life of me at home, my youngest not at all.

What was interesting to find over the years is that my eldest daughter was more like me in mentality and my youngest daughter more like her mother. Their mother had some distinct narcissistic methods and so my youngest inherited them. When my youngest got to 14yo she rang and said “I don’t want to see you again” No reason given. You can understand the heartbreak. Since then (she is 27yo now, she has come in and out of my life and broken my heart each time with promises and demands. It was a game to her.

So the hard decision to walk away from her altogether was made last year. She can visit and I’ll talk but no more support from me. Empathy is missing.

My eldest was treated by her mother as her mother treated me- silence used as a weapon etc. That is why she has no relationship with her at all.

Regardless I did encourage some form of relationship but she made up her own mind.

Importantly I tried for 14 years to have some form of friendliness with their mother to no avail. She made life very hard eg I wanted to pick up our kids on a Monday night for parent and teacher night- “you don’t need the kids with you, anyway I handle all of their education needs because I’m the mother”... so I attended alone.

People tend to think it takes two to argue or make life hard- no, you only need one stubborn revengeful person to ruin any chance of a stable friendliness that benefits the children.

Indeed I understand your concerns Your kids will have to learn his different techniques, mood, boundaries, but they will find their own way just as they need to do meeting a new friend.

Finally, Several times I made appointments with my ex at a cafe and she didn’t show. My intent was to discuss- nutrition (she never had fruit and rarely vegetables in their diet), my desire to be more included in their education and flexibility on pick up times say an hour here or there due to work issues. unfortunately her attitude was that I was just a father. I felt like a sperm donor. I never had a late child support payment. I lived and breathed for my kids.

So my message overall is, if you can work with him you and your kids will benefit. If your kids do miss you too much he can return them and see them one night during the week. Flexibility and friendliness is gold... if he is the same.


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi it will be difficult at first for the adjustment for the kids and both parents.Being a parent means working together and putting your differences aside and making sure your kids have the love and support from both parents.This is a really hard thing to do when parents split up as their can be a lot of anger and resentment.I know you both have two different parenting styles and that you will have to except that as long as the kids are not in harm.

Take care,