Adjusting to parenting after you’ve separated can take some time. Ian Shann from Move On Mediation in Perth has put together some tips on how to navigate post-separation parenting.
Give everyone time to adjust
Life after any separation can be an extremely painful and difficult process, with everyone requiring sufficient time to adjust – even more so where children are involved. How long that may take depends on the extent of the transitions, the personal circumstances of the family and the age and maturity of the children.
There is no wrong or right time. Allow everyone enough time to come to terms with their grief and to adjust to the new lifestyle, and that includes you.
Keep things simple
Children may continue asking questions regarding the changes in their lives long after the separation. Keep your answers and discussions honest, simple and age-related, so they can understand.
If you have small children, there is no need for them to know all the details of your separation, except that you both love them just the same and you’ll both continue to care for them. Reassure them that you’re still a family but living in separate homes.
Stick to your usual routines
Life certainly changes after a separation, but the more of your usual routines and family traditions you can stick to, the easier it becomes for everyone to adjust to your new lives.
Children most often thrive when there is some form of routine in their lives. Knowing what to expect each day makes them feel prepared and in control.
Simple routines like setting meals, play, homework, and bedtimes, all contribute in setting a pattern of familiarity and normality in their lives, no matter which home they are in at any given time.
Keep Communication Clear
When it comes to parenting matters, both parents must put their emotions aside and communicate clearly and directly between themselves and not use the children as messengers. By doing so you avoid misunderstandings and do not put your children under unnecessary pressure.
Make significant decisions together
Co-parenting means that ex-spouses need to make all decisions regarding children’s matters together. Try to get an understanding of the rules and practises to be applied in both households, as well as how to navigate special family events, like birthdays, Christmas, etc.
Involve the children and ask them for their opinions to make them feel important and that their opinions do matter.
Focus on the children
Before making any decision, ask yourself, how will it affect my children? By focusing on doing what’s best for the children, you may find it easier to reach amicable parenting decisions with your ex.
Make time for fun
Put some fun into your and your children’s lives. It doesn’t need to be anything drastic or expensive, a picnic at a park or the beach, a movie together, or making time to catch up with friends for some fun.
Fun is good for the brain, the body and the soul. This is important for you to remain physically and mentally healthy to take care of your children. Spend time with them and show how much you enjoy being with them. The best gift you can give your children is your time.
Don’t try to be the favourite parent
Don’t try to outdo your ex, especially by trying to buy your children’s affection with expensive gifts or fancy holidays. All they need is to feel loved by both parents and still be part of the family.
Rather spend time with them doing simple family-oriented activities, showing them that they are your main priority.
If your children are not with you, try to call them regularly and ask them about their school, their friends or their day. Hearing your voice alone can raise their spirits, more than any expensive but soon-to-be-forgotten toy.
Have support on hand
Nobody needs to go through separation alone. Get all the support you can from your family and close friends, be it physical, emotional, or financial to get you through this period of your life. If you’re still struggling, you could consider professional support from a psychologist or family counsellor.
Consider Putting In Place A Parenting Plan or Parenting Orders
If you’re experiencing difficulties with your ex and haven’t already drawn up a Parenting Plan or have Parenting Orders in place, consider putting some in place. You can deal with major issues, such as educational needs, times and places children spend with each parent and any other parenting issues that may be causing problems.
When both parents have a Parenting Agreement or Parenting Orders in place, everyone knows what their obligations are, thus avoiding much conflict and stress for the entire family.
Ian Shann is the principal mediator and director of Move On Mediation in Perth.
Ian’s commitment is simple – to help keep separated couples out of the Family Court and minimise their need for lawyers, saving them time, money and anguish.
Under Ian’s guidance, separated couples are able to Move On with their lives through amicable divorce mediation.