Here we are again at the start of a new year, and tradition dictates that we should all be turning over a new leaf of some sort. It is a time of reflection, looking at the previous year and then planning how we can better ourselves over the coming year.
For divorced or separating couples, the best positive change you can make this year is to resolve conflict with your ex-spouse or partner. This is not only beneficial to you and your own healing process but also very important for your children.
We understand that many break ups are not simple and very often are fuelled by anger and hurt. Often each person feels the other doesn’t listen to them or respect them or their point of view. Children can often be drawn into these fights; used as weapons against the other parent, by withholding contact or forcing them to choose sides. Many studies show that it is not the divorce itself but how it is handled by parents that causes the most distress in their children.
1. Communicating Better with your Ex
Obviously, it takes two to make this work effectively, but a shift in the tone of your own communication could start to make the process better and healthier. When there are children involved in a separation it is so important for the communication to be regular and civil. There will be arrangements to make for contact, swapping over care, schools, holidays and a whole host of other things.
The stress that is caused to the children and yourself by constantly raging at each other is very damaging. Sometimes you will need to accept that your ex is not someone you like, but for the sake of a more peaceful path you can choose to not react angrily to situations that arise. As we often see through mediation sessions, when communication is re-established, there is a much better understanding of each parent’s point of view and the anger is reduced.
2. Making Arrangements and Sticking to Them
Contact arrangements can become complex in todays busy world. School holidays, work commitments, new partners and many other factors mean that planning arrangements in advance where possible makes absolute sense. It will also benefit the children if they know in advance what will be happening and which parent they will be with during holidays.
Of course, sometimes unforeseen events mean that plans have to change, but it is how both parents deal with this that will make the difference to the children. There has to be a certain amount of flexibility and compromise on the both sides with empathy when plans have to change. There are always times when parents find it impossible to reach agreement between themselves, in these cases our parenting coordination services alleviate these difficulties.
3. Having a Regular Pattern of Contact for the Children
Having a regular (or as regular as you can manage) pattern of care for the children will work best for everyone. There needs to be a clearly defined time when they will be with each parent. If you are still very newly separated it can be difficult to set these boundaries, we have heard of couples spending weekends together with the kids, or one parent coming over to the others house to spend time. This can work but is not sustainable and will cause confusion in the children. They will find it hard to understand why their parents have separated if they spend all their weekends together. So if this is the case for you, make your new year resolution to set clearer boundaries.
Some parents decide to share care of the children on a 50/50 basis, which can work very well for everyone. We have some shared parenting schedules and ideas which may help if you are looking for this kind of arrangement.
4. Put your Children First
This may sound obvious, but it is so often the case that in the midst of a painful separation, parents can lose sight of this and forget the needs and feelings of their children.
We have written many blogs on the subject and you will find some useful information in the following articles:
5. Forgive Your Ex…and Yourself
However painful your separation is and regardless of placing blame at the door of the other, no amount of continued blame or anger will help you going forward. Forgiveness will set you free and enable you to move on with your life. You can only be responsible for your own actions, you cannot control what others do, so with this in mind you will find all of the resolutions above much easier to achieve.
It may be hard to think about doing this and one way that can help is to try to just focus on any positives about your ex. Even just small things like; ‘he always picks up the kids on time’ or ‘she allowed the children to stay with me an extra day as it was my birthday’.
Forgiving yourself can be a tough one, any break up will bring guilt, whether you consider the blame to be with yourself or your ex. Give yourself a break and move on with a positive attitude, your children will fair much better emotionally with a parent who is kind to themselves.
Mediation Can Help
If you are experiencing conflict with an ex-partner and are having difficulty communicating or resolving issues, mediation can be very helpful. Here at Progressive Mediation, we have years of experience with family mediation cases ranging a wide spectrum of circumstances. Please call us on 0117 924 3880 for an informal chat and some advice on your own situation.