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I shouldn’t have to knock, it’s my house!

You may have lived in the family home for years but upon separation you took your stuff and moved out. Whenever you go to pick up the kids for your parenting time, you don’t hesitate and walk right in calling out ‘Ready to go kids?”

The kids come running to greet you, almost like déjà vu when you use to return home from work pre-separation. You have been doing this for a few weeks now since leaving but today you feel the tension has grown. Your ex is standing there, hands on hips with a scowl on their face saying “You can’t just walk in without knocking, you don’t live here anymore?” You are taken aback, shocked and annoyed as this house was your home for years and you paid towards the mortgage. You snap back “what are you talking about it, this is my house too”. Your ex replies “well you decided to leave, so it isn’t your home now”

The smiles on the kids’ faces evaporate and a blanket of sadness engulfs them. Their heart sinks as they just want life to go back to normal and yet the fighting starts again. They feel confused, this was the family home, aren’t we still a family?

You shake your head, and usher the kids out the front door to avoid further conflict. You may feel rejected out of your own home that you still feel is yours, and legally it may well be but moving out has severed the right to walk in as though you still live there. It may be partly your house, but it is no longer your home. The automatic response to walking in your front door needs to transition to a healthy boundary of knocking to recognise that you no longer live there and therefore need to respect the privacy of those that do.

Your ex may feel angry that their feelings have not been respected. They are still processing the grief of the loss of the relationship and yet you walked in as though nothing has happened, just like it was before. A lot of pain and hurt stabs at their heart every time they see you. Some may hope for reconciliation and others may never want to see you again as it is too painful, but know that the kids still need you in their life.

Although you are no longer partners, you are still parents and in order to help the family transition and adjust to the new family structure it is worth talking through how communication will occur, how handovers will take place, how issues will be resolved out of sight of the children to enable them to feel safe and secure that their parents can help them through this family crisis.

Having empathy for each other and understanding behaviours are driven by fear, will enable you both to switch your thinking to being rational rather than the reptilian brain under threat of fight, flight or freeze response. Although as parents we may feel consumed by the impacts of separation, how we manage the challenges is key to the emotional wellbeing of the children. If the children are in an environment of conflict their anxiety and stress levels rise and their sense of safety and security diminish. The more that you as coparents unite to put the children’s needs first and ensure they have parents who are good role models who demonstrate that issues can be resolved by being calm, respectful and constructive in seeking a solution.

Children can thrive in two loving homes and coparents can thrive when they feel supported, respected and their voice heard.

Seek the help you need with our package 3 to provide individual & joint divorce coaching sessions, enrolment in a parenting after separation course and family dispute resolution mediation to reach agreement in shared parenting arrangements. Learn more here

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator, & Parenting Coordinator

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