Couples separate in all sorts of ways: at one extreme, there’s the long talked about and planned separation and, at the other, there’s the sudden walkout, completely out of the blue. Thankfully, the majority fall somewhere in between.
Separating from your partner can bring about some of the most open and honest conversations you have had for a long time. This is the point when many couples express the wish to be amicable and to give priority to making sure their children are all right.
These are important moments that can make a big difference to how your family weathers the storm. However, when reality sets in post-separation, it can be hard to stick to these genuine intentions. It’s hard not to be angry or upset with your ex, when faced with the stress and worry of all the adjustments you have to make.
Because things may not always go smoothly, it helps to be clear about what your most important goals are for the future. Here are two that you might want to consider:
These principles can serve as foundations for everything you do as co-parents. You may want to personalise them and add your own details, or use our free online parenting plan template to agree on some shared commitments.
Having blocks of time when you do not see your children means both of you will miss out on some of the things your children are doing. It’s important to remember that children notice if one parent isn’t aware of things that are important to them – things like a school project, a lost toy or a fall from a bike. It’s not realistic to expect to have a full report of everything that happens to the children, but you should try to aim for regular updates to keep everyone involved. When you are co-parenting, communication has to become a more deliberate and thoughtful exercise than it was before.
If you are the main carer, you are a vital link between the children’s day-to-day life and their other parent. The more you pass on, the easier the transition will be for the children going between the two homes.
If you are the non-resident parent, it’s up to you to take an active interest in all aspects of the children’s lives. Don’t leave it all to your ex to keep you updated with the children’s news – ask how they are getting on, what they’ve been up to, and when the next parent’s evening is.
Children feel secure and cared for when parents communicate clearly. Don’t leave it to the children to pass on their news and never ask children to communicate with their other parent on your behalf.
You might find it impossible to imagine talking frequently and easily with your ex about the children. Some parents fall into conversation quite easily after separation but, for others, it can take years to feel OK. Take small steps and accept that it might take some time to get it right.
Communication can be difficult because:
In the long run, it will be easier on everyone if you find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both. Children’s needs change as they grow older, and your life will change too – you need to be able to sit down together and talk about how these changes will affect you. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some goodwill makes the difficult conversations that much easier
There are affordable divorce plans available from our partners at amicable, who have people available to talk through some of your options.