It may be something that we, as parents, don’t want to think about but with 40% of all marriage ending in divorce it’s by no means uncommon.
With all parents wanting to do the right thing for their children and with research now showing that their behaviour after a divorce plays a far greater role in their children’s wellbeing – both short and long-term – than the divorce itself, the need to learn how to co-parent post-separation cannot be understated.
For nearly a decade, I have worked with individuals who have been in the process of divorcing their spouses. Like most parents, they were happy to discuss their children and, importantly, the traits they had learned that had enabled them to maintain a cordial relationship with their former spouses in order to work together as a team and provide their children with the love, affection, boundaries, support and anything else they needed.
Having also become a parent myself just over two years ago, I’ve become more and more interested in these tips and began to pay closer attention to what had, due to may changing circumstances, become vitally important. My job serves as a constant reminder of the fact that these are lessons I may one day need to put into practice and I remain mindful of the lessons I’ve learnt, and continue to learn, as a result.
With this, and the fact that I’m certain that this information will be of use to divorced or separated parents, in mind, I’ve compiled a list of what are, in my opinion, the five most important traits parents must develop and nurture to be the team they need to be following them having split up:
Like it or not, you’re not always going to be able to have things your own way so being able to give, as well as take, is going to be absolutely vital.
By showing that you’re capable of compromise (allowing your children to stay with their non-resident parent when they have a relative staying, for example) you’re much more likely to receive it in return. It’ll also foster a great deal of goodwill.
The importance of being able to put yourself in your former spouse’s shoes cannot be understated. Do this and you’ll find that compromise comes much more easily and you’ll also find communicating with your former spouse becomes significantly less troublesome too.
With separation and divorce often mired in acrimony, this one can be difficult. That said, it’s also vital.
If you don’t allow yourself to forgive your spouse’s prior – and potentially future – transgressions, you’ll never be able to work together as a team and, as this is something you’re going to need to do for the good of your children, remember why you’re doing it and you’ll have all the motivation you’ll need.
As a child of divorce whose parents often disagreed and would often openly criticise the other’s decision in my presence, I have first-hand experience of how a lack of restraint can harm a child.
Yes, you and your former spouse will still disagree on certain things but, if you feel anger bubbling up inside you, be mindful of who’s present and try counting to ten or focusing on your breathing.
Remember, whilst you’re not going to agree on anything, your children still need to see their mum and dad as a team.
You’re going to face challenges. Your children’s arrangements will change, for example, and if they’re struggling to adapt, it’s sometimes necessary to create unique solutions instead of merely carrying on in the hope that they eventually acclimatise.
A great example of this is ‘bird’s nest parenting’ where parents move in an out of the matrimonial home when it’s their turn to care for the children in order to maintain a sense of normality and consistency. Others have continued to take holidays as a family; some enjoy days out as a group. Think about what would benefit your children and give it a try, creativity is all about ideas, after all.
Jay Williams works as a case manager at Quickie Divorce, one of the largest providers of uncontested divorce solutions in England and Wales. He lives in Cardiff, Wales, with his wife and two-year-old daughter Eirys.