When a marriage or relationship falls apart, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to behave well. There are 100’s of emotions flying all over the place. I bet you’ve felt bitter, angry, embarrassed, socked, disbelief, guilt, panic and fear to name a few? If I’m right, then its also more than likely that you’ve found yourself doing something along these lines….shouting, wailing, being spiteful or petty, being bloody minded or indifferent, justifying your own behaviour, blaming others, slamming doors?? If you have, it’s ok, you are human and we are allowed to loose control sometimes!
The separation and divorce process trains parents to think of each other as adversaries. You may have started off amicably but the lawyers can easily put a spanner the works. In order to co parent successfully you are going to need to put away these weapons of mass destruction and wave a white flag. The thing is, you are both the children’s parents and that is never going to change, life will be easier if you can just get on and call it a truce. This isn’t about you making out you like or respect the other parent, but more about accepting the fact that you’ve got to work together on a joint mission and with common aims for the sake of the children.
Here’s a little task for you…….think of someone with whom you have a good and functional relationship with. Someone you’ve got to co-operate with to achieve what you want in a non confrontational manner. Think work colleagues, child’s teacher, bank manager, your doctor. Now imagine using the same language, tone of voice and manner that you might use with these people when you talk to your ex. You give just enough information to get the job done, you don’t share anything irrelevant. Oh, and you say everything nicely!!
Some tips to help you keep things under control:
- Give each other plenty of space
- Be polite and courteous
- Be punctual for arrangements
- Stick to the relevant agenda
- Think before you speak
- Don’t talk over each other
- Follow though to show you can be trusted
- Keep your dignity and self respect
- Try to see things from each others view point
- Don’t deliberately antagonise each other
- Handle all disagreements away from the children
This might sound a little childish but you need to have a long hard think about how you are going behave with one another. Set acceptable boundaries and keep the dialogue between you business-like, direct and focus only on the children. This may seem a bit forced to start with but it only takes a tiny thing to knock one of you of course. Remember to treat your ex how you would like to be treated yourself, it’s no good expecting him to treat you in a certain manner when you’re not prepared to pay him the same respect. This is the time when you need to forget about who did what in the marriage and concentrate on the future and you’re children, after all that is what is important now. Chewing over the history of your failed relationship is going to quickly undo all your hard work. My sister once said to me “Kill him with kindness” and that is exactly what I still continue to do to this day! (Are you sensing I’m still ever so slightly bitter?!?)
You’re children will probably by this stage have two houses that they consider to be “home”. Each home will have a different set or rules and expectations and what goes on in the other home is something that you will have no control over. In order to make life as easy as possible for the children, both parents should have a reasonable idea of what goes on in the other house though. Day to day things such as behaviour that is expected, boundaries, rules, bedtimes, food, language etc.
Remember at some point in the past, you liked the other parent enough to have a child with them, you are going to need to join together and avoid being played off against each other. Children are unbelievably good at twisting things to get what they want and when their parents don’t live in the same house it only makes it easier for them to do so. Particularly as the children get older you are going to need to agree on things such as mobile phones, appropriate clothing, bed times, curfews and ear piercing (or God forbid any other type of piercing!)
We all know deep down that children need their mum’s as much as their dad’s in their life. I truly do see it as part of my role as a mum to facilitate my daughter’s relationship with her dad. I may not approve or agree with of some of the decisions he has made in his life, but he is her father and nothing I can ever do will change that. She absolutely adores her dad and I know that she has a healthy relationship with him. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that I support that relationship with him, I don’t want her wedding day to be an uncomfortable nightmare for her because she doesn’t know where to sit us both!
Finally, this is all very well if both parents are respectable human beings. (I am assuming that neither parent is a drug dealer or in prison for armed robbery?) I am a firm believer that co- parenting is a worthwhile goal but I also recognise that the reality may not always fit into the ideals that I have been taking about. What happens if you are totally in favour of co- parenting but their dad isn’t and despite your best efforts at persuasion he refuses to play ball? It’s a tough one but the only thing to do is carry on as if he is in favour of it and lead by example. You will sleep easier knowing that you are doing the right thing and if he chooses to ignore the situation, so be it. However if you can demonstrate the benefits of co-parenting through your actions and attitude, he will hopefully reciprocate.
Look out for my next blog “Reinventing Your Family” coming soon…..
Nutkin Nannies Berkshire
Tags: Co Parenting, divorce, single parenting
This post was written by Sarah Cozens