After separating one of the last things you think about is how you will manage the job of parenting with your ex partner!
Separation is a highly emotional situation, full of adult issues, so your parenting agreement may even come last. One of the first things all parents should do after separating is complete the Government funded programme Parenting Through Separation.
This is a valued programme that helps you put things into perspective and understand how to separate your feelings from your children’s.
Putting your children’s feelings before your own can be extremely difficult during this time, adults can get caught up in their own feelings towards the other parent and easy allow this to interfere with the children’s relationship.
It is vital to remember all children deserve the opportunity to have a relationship with both their parents, regardless of the adult issues.
Obviously, if you have had abuse or violence involved, your situation is different however if your issues with your ex are your issues – leave them aside and support your children first.
Co-parenting – parenting with your ex
The definition of co-parenting is;
Co-parenting often describes a parenting situation in which two separated or divorced parents take care of their children.
That makes sense to most of us however interrupting this on a practical level is challenging. My interpretation of co-parenting is, focusing on what is best for the children and communicating with your child’s other parent. However, who separates from their husband/wife and then wants to sit down for a cuppa to chat about the kids? Few and far between, I’d say! It’s not natural for us to want to co-parent with someone that we have decided, for whatever reason, not to continue a relationship with. Co-parenting can be even more difficult if there are any unresolved emotions from your separation.
My ex-husband and I co-parent our two children. Quite successfully but not without its challenges. We had an amicable separation but still the normal emotions of ending a 10-year relationship. 4 years later, we are both re-married and work hard to continue to co-parent. There have been a few things we have agreed to along the way that have made communicating and co-parenting easier.
What is best for the children
The number one lesson for all separated parents is to remember what is best for your children. And that is for them to have a healthy active relationship with both parents.
Children should have access to both parents at all times and regular contact. Focus on their feelings and relationship with the other parent and remove yourself from the equation.
If you feel your intentions are putting the children’s needs first but feel your ex struggles to do so and has unreasonable requests, a good question to refocus the conversation is “Help me understand why “this” is better for the children”. This is a non-attacking statement that asks them to clarify their point in terms of the children’s needs.
My children have access to a phone at all times while with each parent to contact the other parent.
It is okay to have some boundaries and rules in your own home about phone use but as a guide I recommend you give your children the opportunity to talk to their other parent when they feel they need to. My children go through times of calling me daily and times of not calling me all weekend! And vice versa with their Dad.
Having regular contact with both parents is imperative for all children. Unless there is a care and protection issue there is no reason children can’t be shared between homes. When supported children will adapt to having two homes.
We read books and talk a lot about having two homes. Both my children have had times of struggle and times of loving the two homes situation. We emphasis the good stuff for them, two bedrooms, two bikes, two birthdays and now four parents that love them.
It is okay during the co-parenting process to have your own personal boundaries to protect yourself too.
You may find it hard to say no to your ex or feel manipulated when discussing the children. You may still be holding feelings of anger due to a messy breakup or new partner. Or you may feel you have a better understanding of the children’s needs but you are not being heard.
Personal boundaries can include:
- Email contact only to discuss parenting matters
- Having a parenting order written up with your contact times/days agreed
- Having a comprehensive parenting order detailing all areas of parenting to reduce the need for communication
- Having allocated times to contact the children when they are in the others care
- Organising transfer of the children in a public place or via school
- Requesting new partners to stay away from transfers
- Agreeing to attend school events during your contact time only
Remember even in high conflict separations co-parenting is still possible if both parties are willing to keep their focus on the needs of the children while respecting the others feelings.
In my situation we have minimal boundaries but have casually agreed to email each other “hard questions”, that way respecting the other persons need for time to process and make a decision.
Other than that we are very lucky to be able to sit down and have that cuppa to discuss the children, with both my husband and his wife tagging along. I realise this is not the ideal for all separated couples however if you can reach that point, I can tell you from experience that it will give your children the best opportunity to understand relationships and succeed with little effects of divorce.