Co-parenting after separation is hard. Read our 5 tips to help reduce conflict.
Parenting is hard and making the right decisions is a minefield, but add to the mix insecurities that come with separated parenting and there is no wonder that court applications about child arrangements are on the rise.
However the court process comes at a cost, both financially and emotionally, and more importantly, a high and prolonged conflict between parents is likely to cause a child emotional harm. Children can cope well with the changes that arise from their parents separating, but what they cope less well with is the conflict that can so often accompany it.
There are many steps that parents can take to reduce conflict and help their children (and themselves) cope better with separation.
Here are Laceys Mediation top 5 tips which may help:
Be open and flexible
Try to see the bigger picture from the child’s perspective rather than getting stuck on the smaller details and not wanting to ‘give in’. Even if you have a pre-agreed schedule but one of you wants to take your child to a special, one-off event, if you think he/she will enjoy it, let them go. Take a step back and remind yourself that it’s far more important for children to create memories, and they will thank you for it when they are older.
Keep communication civil and non-emotive
Messages sent in haste or anger easily escalate, and in no time arrangements have broken down leaving the childbearing the brunt of their parent’s issues. Avoid sending a message in anger or when you are upset. Try to re-read any messages as if you were receiving them and think about how you might then feel or react.
Avoid conflict at handover
Remember that handover is part of the child’s contact with the other parent and as such it is the child’s right to enjoy that time, free from arguing parents or awkward silences. For your child’s sake, smile and appear relaxed (even if you are seething inside). The issues you have with your ex can be raised at another time. Bear in mind that frequently a child’s reluctance to attend contact can stem from anxiety about how their parents will be at handover rather than the contact itself.
Keep negative thoughts to yourself
Try to avoid saying negative things about the other parent within earshot of your child. Most children love and identify with both parents and negativity towards that parent can translate into a feeling of negativity to the child themselves – ‘If Mummy/Daddy is bad does that mean I am bad too?’ Children have a right to love and respect both parents, irrespective of how others might feel.
Create a Parenting Plan
A Parenting Plan is a written plan worked out between parents after they separate and it covers the practical issues of parenting. The Plan can help clarify the arrangements you need to put in place to care for your children after separation, without having to go to court.
The parenting plan can be as detailed as the parents wish, or as structured or flexible as necessary, but it needs to be child-focussed. For example, how will you share birthdays and holidays? Where and when will you pick up the kids on transition days?.
If you co-parent, but it is proving difficult, seek early help or support and look at options that are aimed at parenting co-operatively and reaching an agreement, using court only as a last resort.
Mediation can help parents work together, with the child put at the centre of those discussions and decisions. It is generally quicker and less expensive than court and legal aid is available for low-income families. More importantly, it can create lasting agreements and establish ground rules to reduce the impact of separation on your child.