Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

How can I keep a good relationship with my son while going through a separation that’s filled with conflict?


​​​How can I still be a good mom when going through a high-conflict separation from my son's father? I want my family back and he claims to want the same but says I must prove my worth. During all of this, I struggle to not be upset or sad around my children.


relationship with son

Thank you for emailing in. There is no doubt your current situation calls for a lot of juggling of emotions. The good thing is it sounds like both you and your husband would like to keep the family intact, but in order to do that there is work to do. We do not know the ages of your children, but it will be important to keep adult content out of the conversations with them. Little ones might ask some big questions, especially if/when routines have to change a bit for them. Usually very short, simple answers will suffice for them. If you have older children, sometimes they might feel like they need to protect a parent or take sides. Hopefully even with them, both of you can answer some questions for them, too. And it is okay when they ask questions to let them know you don 't know the answer(s) right now, but that you want them to keep communication open with you. With older kids as well, hopefully both of you can agree to keep adult content out of it. More than anything, validating your children's feelings will be key. Ask them how they feel and let them know they have a right to their feelings but that you and their father still have the same expectations for them.

You noted this is a high-conflict separation. It is okay for children to see that their mother and father have feelings too, however, the conflicts should still remain for adult ears only. Not only with words but also with body language; kids pick up on that and can hold onto stress which is not good for them physically and emotionally. We recognize it will be hard and that you have the right to your feelings, but the extreme ones should still be kept to the adults. Certainly, allow yourself to feel your feelings and take a few minutes to lay down and cry or worry about something if you need to, but it might help to set a time limit. For example, tell yourself, “Okay, this is 'me time' for 10 minutes, then I need to go make lunch for the kiddos." These little breaks for yourself will help. 

Another way to still be a good mom for your children is to keep to a routine the best you can. Kids thrive in routine. They feel more secure and know what is expected of them regarding bedtimes, mealtimes, traditions, teams they might be on and study time. Do you best to keep these things in regular order. If you have older children, you can help by directing them to Boys Town's teen website called It is tailored to their age group and speaks to family issues which they might find helpful. For the younger children, try to include some one-on-one time every day even if it is a short bike ride or a 20-minute board game. This will be a good distraction for you and a comfort for the children.

Your mind is probably racing in a million directions, so be sure to eat healthy, get your sleep and exercise. This will help release endorphins in your brain which can help with your own emotions. And you know it best to “put your oxygen mask on first so you are able to put your child's on." You just have to take care of yourself and engage in healthy activities. Whether it is the gym, reading a book or grabbing a coffee with a friend, take time out for you to re-energize for the hard stuff.

Continue to look to for additional suggestions or consider calling in if it would help to talk. You might even like the teen website as it can give insight into what your teen might be thinking (if you have teens or tweens). 

One last thing: Have you and your husband talked about what it is that you need to work on? You said he told you to “prove your worth," but what does that look like? Does that mean open communication, keeping up the house, validating your husband's feelings, having a date night each week, getting a part-time job or something else? This will be an individualized plan for the two of you to decide on, but it has to be something concrete so you can recognize that you are working on things that can help the situation. We sure hope this gives you some things to think about. Please know the Hotline will be thinking of you and let us know if you have any additional concerns.​