Raising a baby with your ex-partner is unlikely to be something you ever planned for. But, if you and your partner have separated while your child is still very young, you’ll need to find a way to make things work so that you can get on with the job of being parents at a crucial time.
The breakup of a long-term relationship – particularly when there is a child involved – can be profoundly painful. You might be feeling sad, angry, guilty, regretful, relieved, or any number of emotions as you’re left reeling from the shock of the separation. And, while you might need support to get you through it, you must also keep in mind that this time in your child’s life is more important than anything going on between you and your ex.
If you feel unable to move forward, it can be useful to get some external help, either in the form of relationship counselling, or individual therapy. Talk to your GP or ask at your local children’s centre to find out what support is available locally. When your emotions are still very raw, it can be difficult to see past them to the next step. Your goal should be get to a stage where you’re able to be the best parent you can be.
The first three years of your child’s life are a crucial stage of their emotional development. If you are sharing custody with your ex, be aware that overnight stays in two separate homes can impede your child’s emotional development. While you might both want to have the child living with you, you may have to set aside your own wants for your child’s needs. Don’t focus on fairness between you and your ex – focus on providing continuity and consistency for your child.
To achieve this, you’re going to have to cooperate with each other and maintain a positive co-parenting relationship. Put your differences aside, and make sure that your child has access to the warmth and care of both parents, even if you no longer want to be with each other .
You can help your child adjust to your separation by maintaining a positive relationship with your ex. Your child doesn’t care which of you was in the wrong, or which of you is hurting the most – they just need you both to be there for them. When you and your ex are getting along well, it can actually be a positive force for your child’s emotional development , regardless of the fact that you’re not together as a couple.
Like many parents in your situation, you might feel like you are powerless to change anything, particularly if you’re finding it hard to get along with your ex. However, change has to start somewhere, so it might as well start with you.
Let go of any resentments and set aside the temptation to blame your partner. You can be the one to make the first positive change. You may have to be persistent, but you can start to nudge your co-parenting relationship towards being the positive force that your child needs.
For more practical support, try our short course, Getting it Right for Children. It’s completely free to use – if you’re not already registered with us, just create a free Click account and you’ll be able to get started.
If it feels OK to do so, consider sharing this course with your ex. Suggest it as something you can both do to make sure you have the best co-parenting relationship possible for your child.
 Pruett, M., Mcintosh, J., & Kelly, J. (2014). Parental Separation and Overnight Care of Young Children. Family Court Review, 52(2), 240-255.
 Camisasca, E., Miragoli, S., Di Blasio, P., & Feinberg, M. (2018). Co-parenting Mediates the Influence of Marital Satisfaction on Child Adjustment: The Conditional Indirect Effect by Parental Empathy. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-12.