Parenting after Separation, making the most of family changes

22 January 2012

Parenting after Separation

Making the most of family changes is not that difficult to achieve if you are open to cultivating a positive and flexible approach to family life after separation.  Looking ahead without dwelling too much on what has been helps to approach parenting issues in a realistic and light-hearted way, anticipating and adapting the extra dimensions in your family, seeing them as a challenge rather than as a hassle.

This is not to say that separating can be made to be positive just by will power.  Most go through a really bad time as we come to terms with what we are facing.  However, your children will do better if you are positive and confident with how you approach life in general.

Appreciating one another’s point of view on different standpoints is an important step towards successful co-parenting.

Helpful and unhelpful attitudes

Every parent wants to be a successful one.  We hope that our children will achieve everything we would like to have achieved ourselves.  We try to improve our parenting in all the areas where we feel our own parents got it wrong, and to give our children all those things we value about our own childhood.  We worry quite a lot about the effect our separation will have or is having on our children, and we want to do all that we can to make up for the changes they have to make.  We want to ensure that our children don’t miss out on all that is important.

There’s no doubt that parents separating is usually a sad and disrupting experience for children, but they generally get over it in time, and will certainly do so faster if it is handled well.

If you are able to put aside notions of blame, disappointment, failure, injustice and instead learn to understand how these factors will influence your and your children’s attitudes and behaviour then you are able to take on board a commitment to self-responsibility, personal awareness, patience and the potential for growth.

Language and labels

The last decade has seen a marked change in assumptions about parenting after separation.  It’s not just about ensuring that fathers have an equal right to parent when there is a family break-up.  It would seem that more and more parents are opting for shared parenting on an equal basis.

Therefore, instead of referring to your child’s other parent as “the ex” or  more formally “previous partner”, a more positive approach would be to refer to him/her as “John’s dad” or “Jenny’s mum” or even better, use the other parent’s name in reference rather than avoidance.  We were all given names and by using each other’s names in a kind manner allows our children to observe and reinforce our positive behaviour towards other people.

I read a blog the other day and the heading is “Put your words away” (written by earlbrussel).  It refers to a teachers who taught her children to “put their words away” shortly before crossing the road.  This has struck a chord with me.  If we as adults remember to “put our words away” before saying something negative, then the process of acceptance allows you to focus on what is important right now.

Accepting your ex for who they are allows you to focus on the needs of your children

Taking care of yourself

It is easy to get so caught up in the new parenting role that we neglect our own wants and needs.  We might feel guilty and selfish wanting to take “time out” even while our children are around, thinking we have to be there for them 24/7, play with them or attend to their needs all the time.  This is a trap most of us fall into at one point or another.  Don’t think that self-reflection , and looking after your own interests, is self-indulgence.  Children demand and hold your attention but why not show them and expose them to your world.  Do something that is important to you and share it with them.

Working towards successful co-parenting is a gradual process of attitude change.

♣ Image credit: office.microsoft.com/images/ MP900399506 & MP900409455

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Why a great co-parenting arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved

Why a great co-parenting arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved

8 January 2012

Today I would like to explore why having a great co-parenting arrangement in place is so important and beneficial to everyone involved.

I often wonder how could some relationships turn to total warfare between parents.  We start out as loving each other and liking things about each other.  We go out of our way to make the other person happy, we have children together ….. and then something goes wrong.  We fall out of love.  What was once love turns to hate, what was once doing something for the other turns to obstruction in every possible way and everyone gets hurt in the process.  It does not need to be that way if we just stop and think about it long enough.

If you “drop the rope” there is no warfare

My ex once said to me “drop the rope”.  It took me a while to fully comprehend what it really meant.  Basically it refers to the game of tug of war which is a sport that directly pits two teams against each other in a test of strength.  In this context, if one partner “drops the rope” then the other partner has no-one to fight with.

I stopped long enough to realise that he hasn’t really changed who he was when we first met, nor have I changed – we just became embittered by what was no more.

I slowly learned to “drop the rope” and by doing so I felt much happier within myself which in turn of course benefitted Little Miss M.  I was always careful not to let my disappointment, anger or fear out on her and once I completely embraced the idea the overall mood improved dramatically.  So then, once I managed to accept the break-up of our relationship, I was able to discuss co-parenting arrangements amicably and quickly realised that sharing Little Miss M on an even basis gives us time to “recharge your batteries” – so to speak.

In fact the benefits are tremendous.  Some are pretty obvious benefits such as:

  • she still gets to see her mum and her dad regularly;
  • there is no, or very little tension around her and in her world all she sees is that her mum and her dad love her very much;
  • we get time out without having to feel guilty or selfish;
  • there is still flexibility within the arrangement;
  • it allows us to date other people without having to involve our child or anyone else too soon;
  • you get to sleep in once in a while! (not easy with Miss M waking up at 5:30am most days).

The less obvious benefit and possibly a very underrated one at that is:

  • our child(ren) learn different things from both of us; or the same thing in a different way, expanding their horizon;
  • they are more balanced and the observed behaviour is one that is amicable.

I fully realise that not everybody is able to come to terms with a break-up without the help of mediators but if there is one message I would like to pass on today it would simply be “drop the rope!”

… it is what it is…

Hold on tight… to your dreams

Hold on tight… to your dreams

3 January 2012

Today felt like New Year has never happened.  Back to the same old grindstone…  Fortunately  I was able to spend the last few days on the coast, away from the everyday organised chaos, to rest and refresh, ready for the onslaught of what lies ahead.  My daughter had spent the latter half of the long weekend with her dad which allowed me to do whatever I felt like doing without taking her needs into consideration.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having her around and watch her cheeky little grin or listening to her babbling but as we all know, little ones can drain the battery rather rapidly.

Driving home today was with a slightly heavy heart of having to come back to reality.  Although it was just under an hours’ drive it was enough time to allow me to reflect on these past few days.   I remembered walking on the beach watching mums and dads with their little ones, running, playing, laughing.  Some as a family, some with just their dad or their mum and I could not help wondering how many would be single parents on that beach that day.

There was one young mum in particular who stood out.  She looked like “the surfy chick” (pardon this pun), slim and tanned.  She had a little boy on her hip who looked like he was just about 2 years old.  She took him into the water with her and both enjoyed that special connection between them, the surf, the sun and the sand.  I sensed that this would be something she would be doing often and imagined him growing up on the surf board.  By chance I saw her the next day again, just her and her little man and I wondered where the dad was.

Hold on tight to your dreams, everything will be OK!

Arriving home felt strange, there was no-one I could share the last few, exciting days with.  Everything at home was exactly as I had left it, except perhaps that familiar smell.  You know the one when all doors and windows have been closed for a few days? Not musty, just your own homely smell until all the windows and doors are opened to let the fresh air take it away.  It was a welcoming feeling, the familiar… home!

That girl on the beach reminded me how important it is to hold onto your dreams, do the things you enjoy and not get yourself too bogged down with the things that aren’t available to you.  Being a complete family unit is the ultimate for me but not having it right now does not really matter when I look at the bigger picture.