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Effects of Separation on Children

The other night, my wife told me - for the second time in 18 months - that she “needs a break,” which is her half-assed way of saying that she wants to separate. There is a long explanation of why we have come to this point, and that is another blog for another web site. With her announcement came all the natural emotions: sadness, frustration, anger, etc. but beyond all of that is the question: how to process this so it will have minimal impact on our kids. My son is 16 and my daughter is 13, which on balance is both a blessing and a curse. The former because - being typical teenagers - they want little to do with my wife and I as it is, so there is not a lot of opportunity for our angst to trickle down to them. And the latter because they are not toddlers, bestowed with joyful oblivion. They are keenly aware that every facial expression, tone of voice and (most pertinent) prolonged silence means something, usually not good. The bad news is that it is nearly impossible to be artificially civil all the time - since any previously innocuous annoyance will now be amplified by the hurt and tension. The good news is that it gives the parents - or at least me personally - the opportunity to bond with the kids about things that we never would have bonded about before: just to serve as a distraction. So now, I will sit with my son in our back house and watch seemingly endless hours of his painfully detailed race car video game, or listen to my daughter extol the virtues of 5 Seconds of Summer, the latest Aussie boy band export. All of this in the name of not having to be in the presence of my wife, which would inevitably lead to misdirected upset and anger if the kids were around us at the time.
I don't know what the outcome of this “break” will be: it seems at this point that I simply have to ride out her “need to be alone” (though I can't afford to leave the house, and I personally don't feel like I should be made to leave the house - this is her deal, after all). What I do know is that I will have to be on my toes about what I say and do around the kids, and not project any of the ill will I feel for my wife onto them. I guess, in this sense, it's not any different from any stage of parenting. It just hurts more.
Scott Lenz's picture
The Stay at Home Dad

Scott Lenz was born in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Suzanne have two kids - Jaron, 13 and Georgia, 10. He was the original rat mascot for Chuck E. Cheese, and since then has been a record store manager, music journalist, television documentarian and, most recently and importantly, a stay-at-home dad.