My son is 8-yesr-old. His mother and I divorced when he was one year old, he lived with his mother for the first 4 years but over time I've fought for more time and now we split custody almost 50/50. When he was little he would sometimes cry for his mom but not anymore. His mom also has trouble separating from him - she makes goodbyes too long, gets emotional herself, and generally feeds off his sadness. I've tried talking to her about it but nothing changes.
Anyway- tonight my son cried at bedtime because he missed his mom. Is this normal at 8? And what should I do about it? I tell him it's okay to miss her but I also think it's related to him getting in trouble before bedtime. I feel bad for him, but I want to help him enjoy his family situation and not play the victim. Any advice?
In this counseling answer:
•You are doing the right thing by reassuring him that it’s ok for him to miss his mum.
•You should ensure that any potentially difficult conversations that you might have with his mother are not conducted in his presence.
•You could allow him to make a quick call to his mum before he goes to bed so that he may not be so distressed missing her before he goes to sleep.
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh brother,
Sometimes marriages just don’t work and will end up with a divorce. When there are children involved this can make things a whole lot more difficult.
However, if the parents are not getting on, then the child can have a far better upbringing being brought up by them separately as you are with your wife than staying together and exposing the children to a bad parental relationship, which in many cases has an even worse effect on the child than a divorce! However, managing custody when there has been a divorce can be quite challenging as you are finding out now.
Inevitably thing can be very difficult for the child involved and they will be going through a bundle of emotions too and might not quite know how to manage them, so may, as your son is doing, end up crying a lot as they miss their other parent.
You are doing the right thing by reassuring him that it’s ok for him to miss his mum. This will help him to understand that you understand how he is feeling and will make it easier for him to talk about his emotions to you during this difficult time.
This will be a great help for him. However, you also express concern that maybe he is just saying this because he can be a bit naughty around bedtime.
This may well be the case too, as children in this situation can also learn, that if separation is not managed in such a way that the parents still continue to cooperate with each other beyond the divorce then they can take advantage of this too.
With this in mind, you should ensure that any potentially difficult conversations that you might have with his mother are not conducted in his presence. For example, if it is that he heard you tell her to stop making her goodbyes so long and emotional then this may be impacting on his behavior.
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A way that you could manage his behavior at bedtime is that perhaps you could allow him to make a quick call to his mum before he goes to bed so that he may not be so distressed missing her before he goes to sleep.
You could also say your prayers together before bed and include saying a prayer for his mum too and let him feel comforted that he is remembering his mum before bed and that he has asked Allah for good things for her.
This way he is not treated as the victim as such and you are still in control of the situation, but you are still answering his needs in a way that allows him to think of his mum in a more positive way before bed, rather than crying because he misses her.
In the mean time continue to nurture a loving environment in the home, maintaining your role as a father as the head of the house, but also having fun doing the things he enjoys to do too.
This will help to soothe his anxieties around this new situation of shared custody. However, it is important to get the right balance that you don’t over spoil him to compensate for the difficulties of being raised in a split custody agreement, or he may well become a spoilt child and take advantage of this. He also needs to know that life is not all about having fun.
There are times for this, but he also has his other responsibilities too; to do his homework, to study the Qur’an..etc.. too.
It is a difficult situation for you all to be in, but be assured that if the relationship was not working for you and his mum then the way you are raising him now is better for him.
You will face difficulties along the way, but with patience, you will overcome them and learn the most effective approach to managing the situation that will be best for both you, his mum and your son.
May Allah bring you all ease during these difficult times and may He give you the patience and strength to continue to persevere for the sake of all involved that your son will grow up to be a strong and pious young man that will be the coolness of your eyes.