Dear Indy Parent Coach,

My house is in chaos! My husband and I are going through a rough time. He has moved into the spare bedroom and we rarely talk. Now the kids think they can do or say whatever they want and I’m the only one trying to hold the family together. When I’ve spoken to my husband, he acts like nothing is wrong with the marriage or the kids. I don’t know how we will make it, but I know that I can’t have my kids running all over me.

–  Signed, Hanging on by a Thread

Dear Friend,

First off, kudos to you for recognizing that your kids’ behavior could be linked to the stress in your marriage. I can’t tell you how many times I have students show up in my office feeling like their parents have forgotten they exist while in the midst of marital turmoil.

It can be hard to manage a household with a “silent” partner, and I pray that he comes around, but there are some things you can do to make this situation better for your whole family, with or without your husband’s active participation.

  • Talk to the kids. In a very age appropriate way let the kids know that there is a conflict between you and your husband and that you are doing your best to work it out. No gory details are needed. “Mommy and daddy aren’t getting along right now, but we both love you” could be enough. For some kids, ignoring or pretending that nothing is wrong is actually harder than facing it head on. Be ready for questions and if you don’t have answers be honest.
  • Set boundaries and enforce them. When we are in a stressful situation, the last thing we want is to always play bad cop, but letting the kids get away with things because you feel guilty will never work. Correct them with kindness, but let them know you’re still in charge, whether your husband is on board or not.
  • Get some outside help. The only thing worse than having marriage trouble is having a spouse who doesn’t believe that there is a problem. The emotional toll can weigh heavily on you and even aggravate old wounds. Spend some time with a counselor, seeking solutions, and just having a safe space to vent to make sure you are at your best.

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