Co-parenting has been an almost seamless experience for me regarding raising my daughter with her Father. Sure we have had rocky ground, and our relationship did not end on good terms, but we quickly navigated through our differences for her best interests. Early in the separation, we spent thousands on lawyers and a child psychologist, setting the tone of a system designed to suck out your money and leave you with a potentially less-than-desirable parenting plan. Everybody’s needs for separation are different because it all depends on why you separated in the first place. If your child is not in harm’s way and is old enough to have a shared relationship with both parents, it’s essential to continue being involved in your child/children’s lives. As two Adults, you should put your child’s needs first and not let any personal quarrels get between your child having a healthy and happy relationship with either parent.
Now, equal parenting is not going to suit everybody. I know this because our daughter was fifteen months old when we separated. Mums and Dads who work full-time are not always able to provide a 50/50 shared care relationship, so in many cases, as the child is so young and relies still perhaps on being breastfed or is attached to Mum or Dad as their full-time carer, then this would not be a suitable arrangement. Not all parties can raise a child for equal amounts of time, and sometimes they are incapable or willing to do this. Therefore the responsibility may fall heavily or solely on one parent. In a separation, you must take away any personal aspects of why the marriage or partnership failed and focus on now raising your child/children in an amicable and almost business-like arrangement.
Yes, it is hard to push aside personal feelings; this is natural. It is hard to be the bigger person at times, and often we struggle with how to display our emotions. I was not perfect and had moments where I told him aggressively how I felt. Reflecting on this is perhaps a little cringeworthy and often makes me think about how I have matured. We all say things we are not proud of, but it’s part of the healing or grieving process at that moment. When you go through a separation, I recommend speaking with a professional, such as a Counsellor or a Psychologist, to help you navigate life after such an event. After our breakup, I had counselling for approximately six months, which helped. It helped me heal some past issues within myself, and it helped me map out the new life I wanted for myself. Did I necessarily follow an excellent road map? No, not all the time. We will keep that story for another day. Let’s focus on how sound co-parenting and keeping personal motives and gains out of co-parenting is necessary for your children to maintain a healthy mindset and not take away copious amounts of emotional damage.
Here are my top tips for newly separated parents
- Work on yourself; your children need the best version of you. This means pulling yourself up, lifting your game, and showing them you care about yourself and love yourself enough to be a better person for them. What do I mean by this? Get professional unbiased help. Partying your life away, waking up hungover, feeling sorry for yourself, and being miserable constantly is never going to show your children that you care. This causes long-term emotional damage. You are their role model for life, be that person for them that knows loving yourself is not letting yourself get caught in a vicious cycle of harmful and destructive behaviour. I’m not saying you can’t go out and party occasionally or have a drink with friends.
- Sit down with your ex with a mediator and devise your parenting plans. You are going to need to talk about everything. When I say everything, I mean everything about raising your child/children. This will include how far away you will live from each other, what will your child’s care and schooling plans look like, who will be the main decider on their medical needs and whether you will both openly communicate about these and other significant decisions. How often will your child spend with each parent? What is acceptable in each parent’s home? Will you both stick to a similar routine? What will they be fed? Will you both discuss how soon it is too soon to involve a new relationship in your child’s life? If you can think of a question, I recommend writing it down and bringing it to the table with your mediator. This process will make you a better communicator than you’ve probably been in a long time. Excellent communication is going to make this process much more manageable.
- Financial responsibility: Now, this is a big one! Suppose you are a parent who has been out of work due to being the full-time carer, separating and now find yourself in a situation where you are unemployed and unable to support yourself or your child/children financially. In that case, it is going to be a significant stress. You are already stressed about the separation. Now you need to think of setting up a new home, perhaps going back to work or even looking for care for your child. Firstly, not everyone will have an ex-partner who can support them or is willing to help them. This is why we have the Child Support System, Family Tax Benefits and Single Parent Income in Australia. My ex and I decided not to go through the Child Support System. We decided on a private arrangement to help with daycare and other expenses, as I had 85% shared custody at the start of our separation. Now our understanding has changed to him looking after our daughter’s schooling finances, and we have 50/50 shared care.
- Have a support network! If you do not have friends, family or people you can trust during a separation, please go back to number 1. Your professional adviser will put you in contact with some great resources and will help you. Having a support network will ease your burden when you’re worried about emergency contacts for your child, what happens when you’re sick and need an extra helping hand or if you get stuck at work and need someone to help out with picking up your child from care.
- Always keep personal thoughts and feelings towards your ex-partner to yourself. Never speak about the other parent in front of your child/children in a negative light. It is entirely unhealthy and causes division and feelings of insecurity, and emotional damage. Your child is not your soundboard, nor is your child your counsellor. Save any opposing thoughts or feelings for your appointments, write them down, vent with friends, or exercise them out.
- Keep reminding your child/children how much you love them! You cannot spoil your child with love. Love is endless, and they must know their parents love them no matter what.
I hope you found this topic helpful; if you have any co-parenting questions, please reach out; I would be more than happy to share my thoughts.
Peace and Love,