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.