Parenting While Separated – 5 Tips For Success

Parenting While Separated – 5 Tips For Success

Parenting while separated or divorced is not for the faint of heart. It can be filled with twists and turns of the complex emotional minefield that is relationships. In relationships that end with no children, you can usually walk away, free from having to deal with the person with whom you had a toxic relationship. When there are children involved, you are forced to see that person while trying to mend your broken heart or get over the disappointment of the failed relationship, something that is very difficult for most people. It is tragic that it is the children who end up suffering the most if parents do not actively manage their remaining parenting relationship in order to ensure they protect their children.

There are many things that you can do to increase your chances of successfully parenting while divorced or separated. Here are 5 tips for success:

1. Child Centred Parenting – In all instances, focus solely on what is in the best interests of your children. All of your discussions and decisions should be focused on your children’s well-being. Maturity is key in helping you to separate your emotions about your ex and what is in your children’s best interests. It is no easy task, but with practice and persistence your children will benefit, and the ability to separate your emotions will hopefully become second nature.

The courts in Alberta simply do not care that your ex once cheated on you or wracked up a large credit card bill. The question before the court is always ‘what is in the best interests of the child?’ If that is not enough to convince you, remember that any behavior on your part that does not put your children’s interests first may be presented as evidence against you before a judge.

2. Do not Badmouth the Other Parent – I cannot stress the importance of this point enough. However much you dislike the other parent, never speak badly about them to your children. This toxic behavior does more harm to your children than good. Attempting to divide a child’s love, affection or care for the other parent is simply cruel. It stops your child from building and maintaining an important relationship with their parent, and some research has shown that this reduces a child’s feeling of self-worth as it teaches them to dislike half of who they are. Unless you can do the impossible and physically change your child’s genetic makeup, what is the point of continuing to denigrate the other parent? If you need to vent, it is better to lean on your friends, family or a professional.

In a similar vein, please do not discuss court proceedings with your children. Children’s health experts believe that it is very wrong to do so, and the courts in Alberta maintain the same view. Please let your children be children. You and your ex-spouse chose each other, but your children did not choose either of you, and so it is not fair to include them in the negative aspects of your past union.

3. Separate a ‘Bad Spouse’ from a ‘Bad Parent’ – Remember, a bad spouse does not necessarily mean a bad parent. A spouse who may have cheated on you or gambled their way through your relationship may very well be a loving parent that your children love and adore. Separating these two facets of their personality may be very difficult for you, but part of being child-focused means setting those feelings aside and allowing your child to continue a loving relationship with their other parent.

I have been fortunate to have clients who, despite experiencing broken hearts and feeling intense anger toward their spouse, have still been able to say how great a parent their spouse was and continues to be. These are the clients who have experienced the most success, as their maturity has shown through in their conduct to the extent that in some cases the opposing party simply had nothing to use against them. Most importantly, their children have done better throughout the process.

4. Do not Argue In Front of Your Children – This should go without saying. Imagine how arguing in front of your children must make them feel. Your job as a parent is to shield your children from things that hurt them, and fighting with the other parent in front of the children hurts them badly. Would it be so hard to refrain from instigating a fight with the other parent (or choosing not to rise to the other parent’s attempts to instigate a fight) simply for the duration of your pickups and drop-offs?

Not only does this behavior harm your children, it risks further complicating the co-parenting process where you may find yourself with a condition on your parenting order that makes exchanges possible only in the presence of a third party; or even worse, at a third-party location (such as a police station). The courts do not view parents who argue in front of their children favorably. In fact, abusive verbal exchanges in front of children are considered a form of child abuse. Not only will you risk harming your children or getting an unfavorable ruling in a court battle, but you may very well end up inviting Children’s Welfare Services into an already complicated matter.

5. Separate Money Issues from Custody Matters – I have known some individuals who have withheld access from the other parent who had not paid child support (or the right amount of child support). I have also known those who have not paid child support because they have been denied access. Both scenarios are simply wrong and will create a negative impression on the offending parent. Child support and access should be dealt with separately.

Please stay tuned in for Part 2 of this series, which will provide further tips for success for parenting while separated.

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