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My husband and I have been married for 13 years and have an 11-year-old daughter. Recently, we have had an interpersonal issue that we are trying to sort out through counselling and other help. We have always been very open with our daughter; she has seen us arguing or disagreeing before, and we have told her that this is normal as we are friends and sometimes don’t see eye to eye. But this time the matter was more serious, and at different times both of us left the house for a few days; she also saw some friends coming in and talking to us late into the night, etc. She has now become withdrawn, and when we ask her about it, she says she is just “doing her own thing while we sort out our problems"—in these words. But she has again started sleeping in our room or wants both of us to sleep in her room. Our issue is going to take some time to settle; meanwhile, how can we reassure her?

Children deal poorly with break-ups between parents, and while yours is not a break-up, it seems to be a serious “emotional accident". So there are pieces to pick up, and your child, though not grievously hurt, is facing the trauma too.

You need to provide reassurance, and to do that, both of you have to reassure her that you are in some sort of control and not falling apart. If it is not easy for you to spend time together as a couple/family currently, you could redouble your efforts to spend time with her individually. Also, you need to make a solid effort to be visibly civil and behave well with each other, even if you are not feeling like it.

Children her age hear about divorce and single parents, and separation from one or the other parent for long periods when parents split up. All these doubts and fears must be playing on her mind. Since she seems old enough, and fine-tuned enough to the emotions around her, you could also tell her that you are sorry things are not as pleasant and comfortable as they were, but that this is a trying time and you are both in the process of healing some wounds—find words and actions to demonstrate that in fact there is healing, so that the focus moves to this rather than to the original conflict, whatever its roots.

Try to keep her schedules and routines intact, to counterbalance her sense of foreboding, fear of dislocation and the tearing of the family fabric, with the “normalcy" of day-to-day life. See if you can get her to articulate her feelings, and don’t be in a hurry to dismiss them with an “everything will be ok soon, you’ll see". In all of this, if you can manage to do it, you can further underscore your original statement that her father and you are friends, and friends are honest with each other and make the effort to reconcile their issues, because they are important to one another.

Gouri Dange is the author of More ABCs Of Parenting (Random House), and ABCs Of Parenting.

Also Read |Gouri’s previous Lounge columns

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