Me and my (ex)girlfriend have a 3 years old child. He is an accidental child from a one night stand (where I was completely drunk and she was sober), but I didn't want to leave them alone, so I gave up my former life (I was living in a different country with a life set) and moved up together with them. We were living together for a year and a half.

BUT things are just didn't work out well between my GF and me. We had some arguments and different standards (in parenting and other things as well). Basically she is kind and wants good for our son, but on a different way than me, hence we couldn't get along.

Beside this, she thinks everything is my fault in our relationship, she did only one thing wrong, let me into her life...

So, long story for short, we separated in peace, we didn't want these arguments evolving to fight and shouting and stuff and thought better if a child has two separated, balanced parents instead of together, but hate each other.

We have not experienced any changed in our son's behavior. He still likes singing, active, playing on the playground and kindergarten as before. Still curious about everything just as before. He really likes me and the mother also. No anger or blaming in him at all.

Obviously, he has questions: "When will we sleep together again (three of us)" or "Where are you living now, dad?" or "What home are we going to go now?" or "Do I still have my room?" "Why mom is not here?". We are trying to give him clear and "process-able" answer, but obviously he can not get the truth, but we are not lying at all.

I'm trying to spend as much time with him as I can (every other weekend and trying to get 1-2 days during the week), but basically he lives with his mother. (on top of this we often skyping, even though we are in the same city, but sometimes he just wants to talk with me, specially before going to sleep)

Does a child necessarily needs to be hurt or has to have a sign because of the separation? Is it not strange that he has not, beside those question? Any idea how to maintain this situation and keep this up in him? Or what do you think of this situation at all?

  • 2
    Sounds like you are doing a pretty good job with the situation. Children are quite adaptable, as long as you and your ex remain amicable he should adapt just fine to the situation. He's young and doesn't quite understand everything, so its not unusual that he isn't having problems. Should problems develop, then you might want to consider other things to cope. Are you or your ex expecting or planning anything that would change the current situation and possibly make things worse?
    – user20343
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 15:56

4 Answers 4


Very young children are in some ways more adaptable to changes than older kids who may have complex doubts and fears about the change in family living situation. Soon living and sleeping apart and the schedule of going from one house to the other will seem normal to him. It's not an indicator of any problem that he seems to be as happy and functional as ever-- if anything it probably means you are doing a good job of helping him through this transition. If any problems do crop up later, therapy is a good resource for kids that have been through a major life change, even if the issues are not severe.

Studies have shown that there is likely some harm done whenever a child's parents separate, specifically that educational attainment is reduced compared to children in two-parent households non-paywalled study here. Divorce is a stressor for kids, and also on average is an economic disadvantage, which may be part of the reason for this educational effect.

Yet, a larger number of studies seem to indicate that experiencing strife and fighting between parents is measurably harmful to the mental health of children. (One article that references such a study is found at WebMD). Multiple articles express that a peaceful home life with separated happy parents is better for a child than having parents miserable or in constant conflict but together.

So, a happy two-parent household is most ideal, but amicable, cooperative separated or divorced co-parents is a more positive outcome for kids' mental health and development than 'staying together for the children', and much better than parents that divorce bitterly and continue to fight or use the children against each other.

Overall being involved, emotionally and physically available, and consistently nurturing is going to count for more than living at the same house all the time. Any effort you make to show your son that his relationship with you is as vital, loving and important as it ever was will mean the world to him as he grows up. One of the best things you can do for your child is to make a concerted effort to get along with his mother, parent cooperatively and respect her as the person who gave him life, even if you have personal disagreements.

  • Good answer, +1. However, you didn't answer the actual question: does separation necessarily adversely affect the child? Your answer does not state; it only states arguing is harmful/worse for the child. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 15:33
  • Good point. I will update with another study or article to address this.
    – Meg
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 17:14
  • I wonder how much is about the stress of separation or economic stress and how much is about there being 1/2 of the amount of potential parental attention to draw from. If household tasks have to be done, one parent reads with child, then they switch off, whereas in a one parent household, some of that attention has to get cut short. Thanks for the non-paywalled link, I will check that out, if still active and working. Commented May 20, 2019 at 15:41

From my experience of my parents very messy divorce as a 10 year old (so old enough to have a little understanding of what was going on)

It is the anger of the separation that caused me most pain.

My parents argued loudly and physically, my mum had a nervous breakdown, she bad mouthed dad all the time.

I was a mess, whereas I have seen friends whose parents just drifted apart and they are much more "together" people.


Does a child necessarily needs to be hurt or has to have a sign because of the separation?

I don't think a separation will not leave any marks at all on a child. However, that doesn't mean a child must be hurt by it. I don't think your question is answerable in the general case; you can't set up an experiment with a control group to verify whether a separation has ill effects on a child. But I think it's accepted canon that peaceful separation where parents don't fight, don't blame each other and accept the child's love for the other parent have vastly less impact on the well-being of the child than fighting separations. See for example this Psychology Today article, the article Child Adaptational Development in Contexts of Interparental Conflict Over Time in the Child Development Journal or Kids Coping With Divorce on Web MD as illustrations. There are lots more, and they're all pointing in the same direction.

Is it not strange that he has not, beside those question? Any idea how to maintain this situation and keep this up in him?

I don't think it's strange at all. You're not fighting, you're not giving him the impression that he has to decide between the two of you, you're not making him decide on who to love, and you're doing your best to keep up contact with him. If you continue like this, I'd say chances are that he'll stay a happy and well-adjusted child.

I'm saying this as a divorce kid myself. I was lucky that my parents, after having a few ugly fights, managed to separate mostly peacefully without drawing us into their conflicts. I like to think we turned out ok, but of course I do think about my parent's marriage now that I'm married myself, and I worry about conflicts with my wife, so it's not like my parent's divorce had no effect on me. But it didn't ruin my life, make me bad at school, a maladjusted weirdo or any other such thing.


It is not easy for any child to go through this situation. And yours being only three-year old, one can’t even imagine the kind of confusion that would be going on in his soft and tender mind right now! The situation is bound to be difficult for you and your wife too.

So why not think of getting back together? The questions asked by your little one are clearly indicating his silent wish to see his parents stay involved in his life together. Every child whose parents have separated, has this hidden desire to see his parents reunite, even long years after their separation. So, can’t you put aside your differences for your child's happiness?

What you say is perfectly right - the conflicts among parents have great negative influence on the mind of child. But separation is a far more severe blow for the child. It is certainly hurting your child very badly! You yourself say, your child misses you and wants to talk with you, especially before going to sleep. Separation of parents always means deprivation of love, warmth and security for the child. And hence it has a profound impact on his development; if not now, then very soon.

In every factor of well being – be it socially, cognitively, academically, psychologically, emotionally, and physically - kids from broken families generally lag behind the normal ones; and children between the age of three and eight are particularly vulnerable! Anger, sadness, isolation, loneliness, social difficulties, under performance and various other emotional and behavioral problems are normal and should be expected to manifest soon in such children. Therefore, parents have a crucial role to play in their child's life for his safe and secured future.

The problem between the two of you is not so major that you both together cannot overcome it. What is required is right understanding and a right intention for it! Understanding is like a seed, which you need to nurture with the water of your right intention, to bring about the desired fruits.

You’ve mentioned that you didn't want your arguments to evolve into fights or shouting and stuff. This is a very good intention indeed! But don’t you think your understanding that, ‘it is better if your child has two separated balanced parents’ needs a recheck? If you want to go to Delhi, you need to understand how to get there; you will then reach Delhi without fail. Likewise, if you want to give your child balanced parents rather than the two hating each other, you need to correctly understand how to get there. Why get there as separated parents?

You both are adults. And you claim that your wife is kind and wants good for your son just like you do, but your ways are different. So can’t you both work out the adjustments to fine-tune the manner in which your child can be brought up well? Is it so difficult? Not for the two of you at least, given the fact that none of you have, after separation, tried to malign your child’s innocent mind by filling in anything negative for each other. This is a very positive virtue. Moreover, you are already adjusting to this difficult situation. Eg. You interact with your child through skype being in the same city, you adjust to the fact that you get to see your child only once a fortnight. Why not sort out difficulties by taking adjustments to cope up with the challenges that arise owing to staying together, then?

Come, let us apply right understanding now! Separation can also do wonders in bring you together forever, because when away from each other, it gives us an opportunity to do an impartial review of the events that led us to this day today. If you both, for the sake of your child, choose to do an honest introspection, you both will realize your mistakes - where you knowingly or unknowingly misunderstood your partner, you overlooked his / her perspectives and priorities; you failed to communicate with your partner directly and openly; where you were quick in losing your temper but slow in understanding your partner’s difficulty.

With a positive mind set, try to persuade your partner to do this exercise jointly but individually, in the interest of your child. Pray to God asking Him for strength to be able to see your own mistakes. Realizing our mistakes and heartily repenting over them internally before God, helps not only wash off our mistakes but also mends our relationship, without any external effort. Once you have this realization, it will be easy for both of you to forget and forgive each other for whatever’s gone wrong in your relationship so far, and it will enable you to make a fresh beginning on the foundation of love, peace and harmony. This will be in the best interest of all the three of you!! Yet, if you are sure to remain separate, make sure that your child always knows that both his parents love him very dearly, and both his parents are always there for him whenever he needs them. Wishing you good luck!

  • 1
    Sorry, but I absolutely don’t see any benefit in trying to turn what was a mostly amicable split back and cooperative co-parenting into a relationship for the (imho just presumed) benefit of the child that seems perfectly ok with the status quo. The examples of parents staying together “for the children” go into the millions, especially looking back to times when separation and divorce were socially unacceptable, and the vast majority of them show at least one, often two unhappy partners and constant stress trying to keep something together that doesn’t work.
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 7:08

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