Children's reunification fantasies

It is quite normal for children to wish that their family was back together. This is something that can last for many years at a general level.


However, if children aren't helped to make the transitions from a family that is intact to one that is separated, the desire to bring dad and mum back together may grow and can cause some potentially difficult problems for both them and you.


There are two main causes for reunification fantasies to get out of control. The first is that parents are so consumed by the changes that are happening in their own lives that they forget that their children are also having to deal with the separation. The second is that one parent doesn't want the marriage to end and so, either unconsciously or even consciously, influences a child in helping to bring about a reconciliation.


The dangers of unchecked reunification fantasies are many, from children acting on behalf of one or other parent to serious long term psychological damage. It's potentially very harmful for children to believe that they have the power to bring their mum and dad back together. It means that they believe that it is they who are in control of your relationship.


It's important not to become overly anxious if your child expresses a wish that you and their other parent were back together again. That's quite normal. But it is important to keep an eye out for changes in behaviour. If your child is constantly trying to engineer situations to get you both together, it may be something that you need to address.


Some children will attempt to get their parents back together by misbehaving at home or at school or throwing tantrums in the hope that their mum and dad will come together to resolve the problems. Conversely, some children will begin to behave unusually well. This can be a sign that they believe that it was their bad behaviour that caused the separation.


Dealing with reunification fantasies

It can be difficult to remain resolute when your children want nothing more than their mum and dad to be back together. It will be even harder if that's true for you, too. But it's important to remain unequivocal about the separation to help your child to deal with the changes that are taking place.


If the fantasies persist, ask yourself whether:

  • there is anything that you are doing to encourage the fantasies?
  • you have accidentally encouraged you child to believe it might be possible for the family come back together?
  • you have inadvertently enlisted your child in trying to achieve a reconciliation?


Make sure that you make it clear that:

  • the decision to separate is final
  • the decision to separate was taken by adults
  • your child is not responsible for the separation
  • your child is loved