By Tanya Somerton
In the simplest form I would define co-parenting to be a child-centred parenting method. I am sure you have heard the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Everyone in the village does not live under the same roof and neither will you! When considering separation, our children are paramount. If you are anything like me, I stayed longer then I should have in my unhappy marriage because I put my kids first. This is a broken strategy because children learn from their parents. They learn how to be in a relationship and how to be an adult from watching us. They learn the best and worst. So, staying because of the children is not the answer. Being a happy individual and learning how to co-parent with your ex- spouse will have a lifelong influence on how your kids make future decisions, not to mention improving your own happiness. Making sure your children thrive and grow should be the goal and for both parents to have the same goal need not be difficult if you follow these simple steps.
Explaining divorce and why.
Explaining divorce and why to your children is important from the start. They need to know that mummy and daddy are taking this step because they still care for each other but have different goals and aspirations. Research shows that the kids will have questions around how this decision will affect them and it’s important to tell them neither parent will abandoned them. Reassure your kids by creating a safe environment to communicate and express themselves. The important thing for you to understand is that divorce is not a one-time event for them but a long-term process. Some children may adapt and adjust sooner while others may take time. Everyone is different. Be prepared to have several such talks. If possible, talk together as parents. Show the kids you are both ready to work in their best interests and that the divorce may lead them to have a much better relationship with each parent as there is less stress and no pretence.
Be present for your children – physically and emotionally.
The quality of time you spend with your child matters more than the quantity. Children don’t recall the number of ‘things’ they received as a child but rather events and memories. Children, whether young or old, need their parent to be present. Take the time to know their schedules and work it in, wherever possible. Most importantly limit your work, or playing on your mobile phone, when you do spend time together. Parents need to be emotionally present and attuned showing the kids that they are taking a genuine interest in their lives. Actively involve yourself during the time you spend with them. Make them feel heard and important.
Support your partner’s role and never badmouth them.
No matter how bad the situation was in your relationship with your former partner, be of support if they are willing to co-parent your child.
Your child needs reassurance. Do not speak negatively about them or their parenting methods or allow anyone else to bad mouth them in front of the kids. A child is a combination of both and how you speak of your ex-partner may result in them looking at themselves in the same way. Have a co-parenting schedule, so things are clear between you and your partner. Keep away the previous hostilities from your parenting responsibilities. Remain flexible to accommodate whenever you can. Respect each other so that the children will feel reassured and confident. It may be difficult in the beginning but over time things will fall into place.
Do not involve your children in adult problems and decisions.
Children are called children for a reason. It’s not their job to help solve problems or come up with solutions. No matter how tempered or frustrated you are with your ex or life, involving the kids puts additional stress on their little shoulders. They are not your best friend or counsellor. Speak with those who can help support you and give
a non-judgemental response.
Maintain your own health and well-being.
A healthy mind and body will make things far less complicated. How you feel will carry into your attitude and your attitude will carry on in your efforts. Your children depend on you and that is why your mental, physical and emotional health matters.
There will be times (even many) where things may not go according to plan with your former partner and it can result in tensions rising. Make a point of having someone to speak with (not your children) so that you have help and support; someone who can give you unbiased advice seeing both sides clearly. A good friend, a counsellor, your GP or a support group, even online such as the Divorce Angel Facebook group where you can be free to ask for assistance and have a safe space to heal.
Like all things with separation and divorce, co-parenting will be a journey of bumpy roads and flat tyres but when you arrive at your destination it will be worth the hassle.
Tanya Somerton is the founder of ‘Divorce Angel’, whose business is to facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’ Tanya provides a step by step process which limits cost and conflict that sees you achieving your most financially beneficial outcome possible, now and for the future. She is also the author of The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering Independence Through Divorce. If you are looking to prevent any mistakes and save money, this book is a must. Purchase your copy tanyasomerton.com
For more details on Divorce Angel visit the website www.tanyasomerton.com.