Negotiating shared parenting can become an emotional and financial battle where everyone ends up scarred from the ordeal, especially the children.
So often I hear clients say things like;
“I have a right to have my kids 50% of the time”
“I let him see the kids”
“I’m not doing supervised visits, if I can’t see them often, I’ll fight it in court”
“I think the kids are better off without the other parent in their lives”
What do all these statements have in common? They all have I in them!
None of these statements are thinking of what the child wants and needs.
Through the emotional grief of loss of the relationship, loss of financial security, loss of your home and loss of certainty for your future can make you fight for control to NOT lose the kids too!
None of us ever thought we wouldn’t see our kids every day, not until they decided to leave home themselves anyway!
So, some parents go into battle to ‘win’ the kids. This can be either through the courts or through poisoning the children against the other parent!
It is so important to separate how you feel about the breakup and your ex from your co-parenting responsibilities, as the conflict between the two most important people in a child’s life can have a detrimental impact on their mental health, behaviour and development.
Children’s behaviour can be a direct result of the parent’s behaviour during separation. Children need stability not chaos, calm not conflict, and love not hate. When parents fight with each other about the children, the children can feel they are the cause of the discontent. Reflect on how you were teaching your children to behave pre-separation? To be kind, caring, tolerant, respectful, and compassionate. So, what are you teaching them now through your behaviour during separation? The disrespectful behaviour towards each other can have long term impact on your child’s future relationships on how to treat others and how to allow others to treat them.
Children want and need both parents in their lives (unless there is a safety issue). You may hate your ex and never want to see them again but even though you may no longer be partners, you will always be parents.
It’s important that the decisions on shared parenting are based on the children’s needs. What will help them thrive?
If the children are pre-school age and have been at home with their mother as their primary carer, they may need a phased parenting schedule to ease them into being away from their mother. Just like preparing kids for school, you may put them into day care for a few hours then a couple of days per week to ease the transition to full time school. Same applies to shared parenting which might start off with a few hours, then one day a week, progressing to sleepovers, then weekend stays through to 50% shared parenting. Each child is different so parents need to work out what will work best for their child.
Some parents may start with 50% shared parenting straight away and create two loving homes for the children to transition to with a schedule of 2,3,3,2 alternate nights then move to one week on and one week off at each parents’ home. It’s important that you ensure children are at the forefront of any decisions such as having easy access to their school, everything they need at both homes and continue to see extended family and friends.
The transition for parents not seeing their children daily is challenging when you are dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of your separation but it is important to help your children transition and adjust to the new family structure. They look to you for leadership, problem solving and support through this traumatic time ensuring they are allowed to continue to love both parents.
Remember, children thrive in two loving homes!
For help to create a successful co-parenting relationship see our parenting after separation program here which provides you with a pre-populated co-parenting plan with all the options to set the ground rules and a completion certificate to demonstrate your commitment to co-parenting successfully.
Author Cheryl Duffy