When Parents First Separate
Couples separate in all sorts of different ways; there’s the long talked about and planned separation at one extreme and the out of the blue suddenly walk out at the other. Fortunately, the latter are in a minority and the majority fall somewhere inbetween.
Many couples are surprised to find that when they are about to separate they are able to have some of the most open and honest conversations they have had for a long time. This is the point when many couples express the wish to be amicable and to give priority to making sure their children are alright.
These are really important moments that can make a big difference to how your family weathers the storm. All too often though, parents find it hard to stick to these genuine intentions when reality sets in post separation. It’s not that they have changed their minds but rather, the stress and worry of all the adjustments that have to be made can make it hard not to be angry or upset with your ex.
Because things may not always go smoothly it helps to be really clear about what your most important goals are for the future. For parents there are two that stand out:
- To commit to supporting your children in having a free and uncomplicated relationship with the other parent.
- Whatever your feelings are about each other, you will not let them interfere with your co-parenting relationship.
There are lots of details that you will need to add to make this work in practice but these principles will be the foundations for everything else that you do as co-parents.
Parent’s Communication Post Separation
It’s only when you’re no longer living together that you notice how much information you shared about the children without even realising it. Having blocks of time when you do not see the children means that each of you will miss out on some of the things your children are doing. It’s important to remember that children notice if one parent isn’t aware of things that are important to them. Things like a school project, a lost toy or a fall off a bike can get missed when you’re living apart. It’s not realistic to expect to have a full report of everything that has happened to the children since you last saw them! It’s a matter of judgement what to pass on but regular updating keeps everyone involved. The point is that this is another way in which co parenting is different – communication is a more deliberate and thoughtful exercise than it might have been before.
Mums (if you are the Main carer) – you are a vital link between the children’s day to day life and the other parent. The more you are able to pass on the easier the transition is for the children going between the two homes.
Dads (if you are non resident parent) – don’t leave it all to mum to keep you up to date with the children’s news. Asking how the children are getting on or asking, for example, when the next parent’s evening is, shows that you’re interested in all aspects of the children’s lives.
Children feel secure and cared for when parents communicate, so don’t leave it to the children to pass on their news and never ask children to communicate on your behalf.
You might find it impossible to even imagine talking frequently and easily with your ex about the children. Some parents can fall into conversation quite easily after separation; for others it can take years to feel ok. Accept that it might take some time to get right and it’s alright to take small steps.
When Communication Is Difficult
Communication can be difficult because:
- You feel too anxious, angry, upset to speak to the other parent.
- You always end up arguing – it’s easier to not talk at all.
- The other parent refuses to speak to you.
- You feel the other parent is more powerful than you.
- You simply don’t like the other parent.
- When you were together you couldn’t communicate.
Why it’s worth the effort
It’s hard on everyone in the long run if you don’t find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both. The children miss out and parents can end up dreading any conversation. Children’s needs change as they grow older; your life will change too – you need to be able to sit down together and talk about how these will affect you. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some goodwill makes the difficult conversations that much easier.
Follow this link for further information on what to expect when separating