Separation and divorce can have a profound impact on children, particularly if parents prolong conflict, refuse to be child focused and expose the children to parental conflict.
Even in the most amicable separations, it is normal for Children to experience anger, sadness and grief. The way that children will display these emotions depends on their age, emotional maturity, gender and the level of support that they are offered during the separation.
If parents expose children to parental conflict and know that their parents have a hostile relationship, it can impact children in a negative way.
It is important for parents to understand that, in the absence of the other parent posing a risk to the child, that they will continue to have a relationship with the other parent notwithstanding they are no longer married to the other parent.
Both parents should approach the relationship breakdown as an opportunity to develop a positive co-parenting relationship for the short- and long-term benefit of the Children.
Co-Parenting refers to the commitment that parents make to keep the communication between each other positive, respectful and child focused.
Our top 5 tips for a positive co-parenting relationship are:
- Do not use your children as “messengers”. Previous methods of communication that you used prior to the relationship breaking down, such as face-to face meetings may not work post separation. There are several new platforms that have been designed to assist parents communicate, such as “Our Family Wizard” that allow parents to message and store important information and documentation.
- Talk positively about the other parent in the presence of the children. Remind the children that the other parent misses them and loves them. Whilst it is tempting to discuss issues relating to the care of the children in front of them with the other parent (such as when changeovers occur), this can expose children to adult issues. The other parent may not have been an ideal partner during the relationship, but they will remain an important part of the children’s life. When you, or someone else, speaks badly about the other parent in the presence of the children, it hurts them. You should aim to strengthen your children’s relationship with the other parent.
- Keep child focused. It is often very difficult to not respond emotionally to something the other parent may have said. Be honest with your feelings, but do not let them impact on the arrangements that benefit the children. For example, you may be jealous or upset that the other parent has re-partnered. If you withhold the children and refuse to allow them to spend time together as a result, this is not being child focused.
- Seek professional support and advice if you need assistance in communicating or resolving disputes with the other parent. This may include experienced family lawyers, collaborative lawyers, professional mediators and counsellors. Having a strong support network that understands your situation and can provide unbiased and sound advice is very valuable and will assist you in developing a positive co-parenting relationship.
- Ensure that changeovers are as easy as possible for the children. Parents should appreciate that every time the children come back into your care; they have had to say goodbye to the other parent. It can be a difficult transition for children to make. You can make changeovers easier by:
- Helping the children understand routines so they can anticipate changes. For example, remind the children a few days before they are to spend time with the other parent.
- Allow the children to help you pack their belongings that they will take to the other parent’s home.
- Establish a special routine for when children do come back into your care. It could be special snuggles, quiet activities such as craft or reading books together. Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect.
Whether you are recently separated or have been separated for a while, it is never too late to start developing a co-parenting relationship.
If you would like advice regarding your parenting matter, contact our office on 02 8854 0267.