Parental separation brings with it many challenges and difficulties for both parents and children. It’s not easy to create new parenting arrangements when a relationship breaks down, especially if there are unresolved issues and strong feelings.
The cliché of ‘lets be friends’ often does not work. So instead I encourage separated parents to learn how to be business partners in the business of raising healthy and happy children. In doing so everything can be framed in terms of what is going to make your business (i.e. your child) successful.
Keeping your child’s best interests in mind is the key to a successful co-parenting arrangement. The following recommendations will ensure your child’s success in the case of parent separation:
- Help the child have regular contact with the non-custodial parent by phone, letter, audio and videotapes, e‐mail, and other forms of communication
- Keep predictable schedules
- Be on time and have the child ready when it’s time for the child to go with the other parent
- Exchange the child without arguing
- Support the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Let the child carry “important” items such as favourite clothes, toys, and security blankets with them between the parents’ homes
- Follow similar routines for mealtime, bedtime, and homework time
- Handle rules and discipline in similar ways
- Support contact with grandparents, stepparents, and other extended family so the child doesn’t lose these relationships
- Be flexible so the child can take part in special family celebrations and events
- Establish workable and respectful communication with the other parent
In picking up on some of these recommendations the following are vitally important to your business success.
Show respect and empathy
Keep in mind that your child is biologically 50% you and 50% your ex-partner. Any insults, put downs or rude statements you make about your ex will reflect on your child’s identity. When you are interacting with your ex you are demonstrating to your child how to interact with people in general. So think about how you want your child to treat others and make sure you apply this to your ex no matter how you may feel about them. Apply the old principle of Do unto others.
Deal with your own emotions.
Separation can naturally bring with a host of difficult emotions including anger, hurt, resentment and mistrust. These are not your child’s emotions to own. They may be dealing with their own emotions regarding separation but they do not need parents emotions to deal with also.
Research shows that putting children in the middle of your adult issues promotes feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing children to question their own strengths and abilities. So find ways to deal with your own emotions and any ensuing conflict.
Find ways to forgive
Finding a way to forgive past hurts and move forward with life will help with co-parenting your child. Let me be clear that forgiveness does not mean excusing bad behaviour. Forgiveness is about finding a way to let go of anger and bitterness and move towards compassion. If you are struggling to do this we recommend seeking out a psychologist to help you do this.
For the non-custodial parent – nurture your relationships.
It is important to find ways to be part of your child’s life even on the days you are not seeing them (court orders permitting). Your child must know and understand that your relationship with them continues in our absence. This can be as simple as send a quick text message, a photo or making a call. Depending on the age of the child, do not expect much from theses communications in terms of there quantity. It is the effort you put in in enquiring about your child’s world that matters. The conversation may last all of 2 minutes but the fact that you called and asked is what counts. Often I hear objections from non-custodial parents such as I don’t want to have to interact with my ex when I make a call. There are ways around this. Set up a designated time for the call, use special child friendly apps for messaging that the child is given access to (age permitting). Maintaining your relationship with you child is the most important thing.
If you are struggling to apply some of the suggestions here or there is a high degree of conflict we encourage you to seek out mediators or assistance form the Governments Family relationship Centres as a starting point. Anglicare’s 8 week program Mum’s and Dads forever is helpful and you do not need to attend the program with your ex-partner. Alternatively, you can seek family therapy. Family therapy is not intended for reconciliation but simply to address factors that are preventing you from finding ways to be successful in your co-parenting journey.
Here’s to your success in business.