It certainly is a common sentiment – We’re staying together for the children.
The thinking behind this is manifold;
o Staying together continues to provide an intact family;
o Perhaps when older or already out of the house, the kids may manage the separation better;
o Parents may concern themselves about post-separation residential arrangements with a view to their missing the children.
Regardless of the rationale for staying together, it is not always the best choice for children. Depending on the level of conflict versus cooperation, some families may stay intact but keep the kids immersed in a war zone. That war zone doesn’t have to include the overt, in-your-face kind of conflict. It can also include the cold war where there is ongoing unspoken emotional tension. Living in a war zone, overt or covert, creates tension that may cause more distress for the child than living in two separate homes. The impact of that tension can come out as anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and inappropriate behaviour. Kids pick up on the tension, and it may feel unbearable.
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In other situations where the children have learned that the parents stuck it out for their sake, only to split later, some kids then feel guilty. Not only may they feel as if they were the cause for a parental separation, but definitely the cause for them having to endure an unbearable situation.
If you believe you are staying together for the sake of the kids, take a good second look at that decision and figure out whose needs are truly being served. It may be the parent who is actually unable to bear the change.
If you really want to act with due regard to the children, seek counseling for yourself and your partner. If you cannot repair the relationship, then at least negotiate a survival plan if not a separation plan. The survival plan speaks to how you will manage your relationship and the care of the children between you. If you can’t do this with your partner, then consider doing this on your own. Part of that planning should include a consultation with a social worker and also a family law lawyer. Very often there is both mistreatment and misinformation which intensifies the belief that you need to stay. Understanding the dynamics one is embedded in as well as good family law information can facilitate better decision making.
Staying together for the sake of the kids must present a better alternative to separating. Finding your own way to manage successfully will be key.