Separated Parents

Finding yourself in a relationship that is often called “parents but parted” can be daunting and confusing. Here are a few tips to help you navigate you way through. Remember: you are still parents, and might still have that bond between you forever. Time to work from the best in you, even if you have found this hard over the past few months.

Here are some bullet points to help:

What children need

• To be told what’s happening and how their lives will change
• To know that it is not their fault
• To know that it’s OK to feel angry and sad
• To know that it’s fine to talk and ask questions
• To be listened to
• To know that their parents understand how they feel and still love them
• To feel OK about loving both parents
• To know that it’s all right to have different family rules in different houses
• To be allowed to distance themselves from their parents’ conflict
• To have a predictable routine with consistent boundaries
• To know that they have two homes where they belong
• To be able to stay in contact with extended family like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins
• To have access to other types of support if they want it
• Have hope for the future
• Above all – to be allowed to be children

Tips for contact

• Develop a business-like relationship with the other parent which is centred around the best interests of the children
• Wherever possible be flexible and willing to compromise
• Don’t discuss things that might lead to an argument in front of the children
• Use safeguards if you are concerned about conflict during the handover
• Remember that the parent who has residence is likely to experience different feelings to the other parent
• Even if your ex-partner is not co-operative, keep to a business-like
relationship

• Focus on what you can control not on what you can’t
• Learn how to manage your feelings and not behave reactively
• Try to think of things from your children’s perspective
• Ask yourself: “What difference will this make in a year’s time?”
• Try not to get into arguments about what “really happened”

Having a difficult conversation

Reduce your stress levels
Take deep breaths and deliberately breathe more slowly, this helps to change the stress chemicals that your body is making and can help you to feel calmer
Listen to what is being said
Try to listen with undivided attention
You can’t listen and talk at the same time, the more you listen and the less you say the better
Try not to automatically jump in if there is a pause
Respond in a non-confrontational way
Avoid changing the subject or interrupting unnecessarily
Avoid speaking too soon, too often or for too long

What children don’t need

To hear or see their parents complaining about or blaming each other
To hear criticisms or negative comments about either parent
Adult information about the reasons for the divorce or details about child support
To feel that they may be asked to choose one parent over the other
To pass messages from one parent to the other
To feel like an outsider in one parent’s home