Co-parenting successfully following a separation
One of the greatest fears expressed by most separating parents, is whether their children will be damaged by the process. Typically, separation is a disorientating experience for all the members of the family. There are literally hundreds of practical and emotional decisions that need to be made, as well as implementing many adjustments to living arrangements. A co-parenting relationship is one where parents think together about the child’s wellbeing and make joint decisions that support the child’s emotional, physical, and practical needs. A co-parenting relationship is not about your ex-partner – it’s about putting your child’s best interests first and loving them above your own hurt, sadness or resentment. A co-parenting relationship is one of the most important ingredients for children to flourish and develop well post separation.
The greatest gift for your child
Forming an effective co-parenting relationship is the greatest gift you could ever give your child. It says, “We are still your parents. We look after you. You are still our priority. You are still a child who should just be focusing on your schoolwork, sports, friendships, having fun and learning.” The gift here is freedom, the freedom to continue to be a child following a separation.
Good mental health
Typically, children of parents with good co-parenting relationships remain emotionally well, are able to settle into their new family units and thrive. Sadly, children do not fare as well when their parents are in continuous conflict. They are more likely to struggle with mental health issues (particularly anxiety and depression), behavioural outbursts and substance abuse.
Allow your child to dream about the future… in the present
When parents create a respectful and thoughtful co-parenting relationship, a child has the freedom to imagine a future where both parents can be in a room together celebrating life with them. This could be future birthdays, graduations, getting married or having children. When parents remain entwined in perpetual verbal conflict or a cold war, a child cannot even fantasise about any of these celebratory life events without their parents’ conflict destroying the fantasy. This breeds enormous anxiety for children in the present.
Be the parent you would want to have
Stand in your child’s shoes for a moment. Your family unit is disintegrating. Your future is uncertain. You do not control the separation process. If you were your child, how would you like your parents to behave at this time? You would absolutely want a co-parenting relationship to be created. You would want the right to love both parents without spite and belittling of the other parent. You would want to have them to model respectful communication and demonstrate good decision making on your behalf. Be the best parent and co-parent for your child that you would want for yourself if you were in their shoes.
Conflict takes up so much energy
Even one round of conflict with one’s ex is physically and emotionally exhausting. Typically fights leave partners and children feeling depleted, unhappy, and then require a dispiriting period of recovery. As much as you feel entitled to be upset or frustrated with your ex, conflict serves no useful purpose and will only keep your nervous system jangled and your life filled with unhealthy drama. Working through a separation is a jarring and difficult experience for everyone involved. A separation is a massive emotional and practical undertaking, and it is understandable that parents become preoccupied with having so much to navigate. However, it is essential that parents create a good co-parenting relationship so that their children can thrive now and into the future.