How to be the best parents after separation or divorce
All parents have an important job to do in raising their children, whether they are living together or apart. The way in which separated parents manage the arrangements and decisions after they separate will have a huge impact on their children. With the help of Wells Family Mediation we have put together some advice on how to keep the children in mind and put them first. Research shows that children benefit from ‘shared parenting’ – this is not just about how much time they have with each parent, although that is important, but it is also about how they experience the relationship between their parents.
10 top tips for successful parenting after separation:
- Look after yourself. Get support to help you cope if things are difficult. Get help to move on from the anger/upset/hurt etc that you may feel towards the other parent as these will not be helpful for your child.
- Aim for a relaxed atmosphere at handovers, where the child does not pick up stress or conflict. Make eye contact, be polite to each other, ideally exchange some small talk in a friendly way.
- Try and avoid raising difficult issues at handovers. These can be addressed another time when the child is not present.
- Protect your child from conflict between you and the other parent. Conflict can be active (shouting, arguments) or can be passive (no eye contact, silence). Both are harmful to children.
- Always speak nicely of the other parent when in the child’s presence
- Use respectful language with the other parent, and approach parenting as a team effort – ask each other’s opinions, seek each other’s help, make decisions together.
- Use ‘we’ language to the child, to show that mum and dad talk about him/her and make decisions together. ‘Mummy and I were talking and…’ ‘Daddy and I will think about that…’ ‘We are so proud of you…’ ‘We have agreed dates for the holidays…’ ‘We….’ etc.
- Keep each other informed, by email or separately from your child, about important things concerning your child so that, when he/she passes between you, the nurturing parenting continues. Eg ‘I’m so sorry you’ve had a difficult week, Mummy tells me that a friend was horrid to you on Facebook….’ ‘Daddy tells me you found the maths homework really hard. Do you need any extra help….’ This leaves the door open to talk, and shows the child that the two parents are caring for him/her together.
- Keep careful boundaries. There is no need to share or seek personal information with/from the other parent if it is not about your child. Respect each other’s personal space.
- We all need sleep. Avoid sending emails or texts in the evening, unless urgent.
Children instinctively love both parents and thrive when they are free to do so.
If you get into difficulties with each other, don’t let conflict continue unresolved. Get help to sort things out so that your children have a childhood which is not dominated by adult stresses.
Working towards a peaceful relationship with your ex-partner will be incredibly beneficial to your children, remember that this is a common goal for you both to work towards, just as you would prioritise education, hobbies and skills in your children, here you are prioritising emotional health. Are you interested in learning more about parenting after separation? See http://www.corechildrensservices.co.uk/project/cafcass-separated-parents-information-programme/
Or if you want help to build a better parenting relationship with your co-parent try mediation:
For local advice you can contact Wells Family Mediation or see https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/find-local-mediator/