If you and your partner have separated, there are steps you can take so you can still be a supportive parent for your child
It’s never easy if you and your partner decide to go your separate ways, but if there’s anything that you’ll both agree on, it’s that you want to make sure your child isn’t affected too much. And it is possible to co-parent successfully so long as you focus on your child without letting other issues colour your judgement.
Be clear about your decision
If you’re in the process of splitting up, make sure that the decision you’ve made is the right one. ‘It can be very destructive if you and your partner keep splitting up and getting back together, so be certain of your feelings before you bring your child into the decision,’ says Penny Mansfield director of The Parent Connection, a charity providing advice for parents who have split up.
Find an outlet for your feelings
But make sure this outlet isn’t your toddler. ‘In times of high stress, it’s very easy for your own emotions to spill over into your everyday life and you may not even realise it, but you could be bringing your child into a conversation you should be having with an adult,’ says Penny. ‘Whether that’s a counsellor, family member or friend, make sure you vent to the right person so your toddler isn’t caught in the middle of the conflict.’
Don’t use your children as messengers
No matter how angry or frustrated you are with your partner, it’s important that you don’t send messages via your little one. ‘Telling your little one “to tell Daddy this or that” will just mean your toddler will end up confused, as you’re asking her to judge him,’ says Penny. Even young children can be affected. ‘They have very strong emotional antennae so pick up on tension easily,’ adds Penny.
Dig out your negotiation skills
You’re never going to get everything your own way in a break-up and so it’s important that when you’re making co-parenting arrangements, you look at if from the other person’s point of view. ‘It essentially about being realistic about what you can do to help each other out, being adaptable and compromising,’ says Penny. For a peaceful negotiation period, meet in a neutral place that’s not in front of the children, stay calm and keep the focus on what’s best for your child.
Allow your child to be sad
If you constantly try to ensure your toddler or pre-schooler is happy despite what’s happening, she may end up not feeling like she can’t express her true feelings. ‘She must learn that she can be open with her feelings and not mask them – it’s normal to feel sad, but being open and talking to your child will help her get through them,’ says Penny.
Remember, you’re both still parents
Even though you and your partner aren’t romantically linked, you’ll always be a parent to your child, so keep reminding yourself that that’s the priority now. ‘Think of him or her as your child’s parent – Sam’s Dad, Molly’s Mum – rather than “the ex”,’ says Penny. ‘Once you start looking at them in this way, it brings the focus back to your child and will ensure you’re acting in her best interests.’
If you’re in the process of splitting up, you can set up an online Parenting Plan to make the process work for you both.
Do you co-parent with your ex? How do you make it work? Let us know below.