Longing is common for children
It is common for children who have two homes to long for their parents. But it varies how much children dare to show how they feel. Strong emotions like longing and missing can lead to delicate situations. Here you as a parent can meet your child in a way that makes it easier to handle the emotions without it leading to conflicts with the child and/or the coparent.
A summary of this article below.
It is natural for a child to miss a parent
All children with separated parents sometimes yearn for their parents. Often they stay silent because they don’t want to hurt us and are afraid of our reaction. Sometimes it’s enough for them to be able to call the other parent, so be sure to give them a specific time when they can talk to the parent they are longing for without interruption. Sometimes, phone calls like that can make the emotions run high and it can be impossible for the other person to comfort you after you hang up. If you have a weak self-confidence as a parent, or a relationship with your coparent that isn’t particularly trusting, then the longing hurts even more. And, just like with motherhood and fatherhood, it’s easy to blame each other for causing it. That kind of arguing doesn’t help the child; instead it makes them afraid to show their feelings.
Validate your child’s longing
The best thing is to validate your child’s longing, help them put words to it, and try to comfort them. Maybe you say: “I know you’re longing for daddy, sweetheart, but you can’t be with him tonight. Come and sit on my lap and see if that feels a bit better.” If your child is inconsolable and the other parent is available, you can sometimes accommodate your child and let them stay the night with the person they are longing for. That is not a failure and does not mean that your child will start playing around and manipulate their emotions in the future. Simply say: “I saw you were so sad and longing for daddy, so I called dad and asked if you could stay with him tonight. Would you like that?”
Using longing as a way of solving conflict
Sometimes children can use their feelings for their parents as a kind of trump card when they argue with each other: “Now I’m going to Dad, he’s at least nice.” I don’t interpret that as longing but as a way to avoid solving conflicts. It’s better to confirm that “yes, Dad is really nice” rather than the child leaves. Stay focused on that this is about you and your child and that it is a conflict that the two of you need to resolve.
Avoid fueling the conflict of you are the other parent
When you find yourself on the other side, that is, the one the child has gone to, of course you first acknowledge all of the feelings: “Oh, I hear that you were really angry at Mom.” But avoid fueling it more. Instead, strengthen the child that the conflict is something they must handle with their other parent.
- It’s natural for children who have two homes to long for their parents.
- Acknowledge the child’s longing. If appropriate, the child may be able to call the other parent or spend an extra night with them.
- Don’t get into a conflict if the child uses their feelings for you as a trump card. Acknowledge the child and focus on resolving the conflict, rather than escalating it.
- Are you the one the children turn to? Acknowledge the child’s emotions but avoid escalating the situation. Empower the child to resolve the conflict with the other parent.