Most couples don’t choose to go into a marriage and have children together with the intention of separating down the line. But it happens. And it happens 50 per cent of the time.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the separation, the end goal remains the same – to ensure the kids are happy, healthy, safe and secure in both homes. And this comes down to the parents getting along and choosing to work together.
Separated, but still united
There is no way to sugar coat it – separation sucks. The split, the moving house, the parenting agreement, the adjustment to single life, the admittance that you failed as a partner, the days without the kids – these things are heartbreakingly hard.
But this new lifestyle can be even harder for the kids. Getting used to not seeing both mum and dad every day, to having two beds to sleep in, to adhering to two different routines – it can take time to get used to this as the new ‘normal’.
One of the hardest things about moving forward is learning how to keep the peace with your ex. There is a reason you separated in the first place – the whole situation was toxic for everyone involved.
Now that you’re not together the toxicity is probably even higher. There is sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy. But there is also the underlying goal to keep in mind – what is best for the kids.
Here are a few ways to succeed at co-parenting, even if your marriage or relationship has failed. Of course, there is no right or wrong way to co-parent, but hopefully, these tips can help steer you and your ex in the right direction.
1. Stay uninvolved
As hard as it is, don’t get involved in your ex’s lifestyle or day to day choices if they don’t involve the kids. Who he dates, how he chooses to style his house, what he does during his free time – unless his decisions are negatively impacting the kids, then it’s none of your business.
2. Continue to communicate without the kids around
You know how easily a quick conversation can turn into a full blown screaming match in a matter of seconds. When communicating with your ex, do it away from the kids just in case you get into a heated debate.
3. Put it in writing
If you and your partner can be civil for eight hours straight, then contact a mediator and have him or her put together a parenting plan which outlines the time split as well as what happens on special occasions (Christmas, birthdays, school holidays, etcetera).
Both you and your partner have to agree to this which means being locked up in a room with him until you both accept the terms. But it is better than going to court or constantly arguing about who gets the kids when. Prepare yourself for one of the hardest and most draining days of your life. And bring heaps of tissues.
4. Leave the insults inside
Badmouthing your ex in front of the kids is probably the worst thing you can do. Even if you don’t love him anymore, the kids do. And they have the right to form their own opinion about him. This works both ways, of course, and hopefully your ex will keep this in mind as well.
5. Find methods to cope with what’s happened
Co-parenting means there will be days when you don’t have the kids. It can be a good thing – you get a break. But it can also be lonely. You will feel lost. And you will need something to fill this void.
Wine works. But it’s not the best choice. Some better options? Hobbies – painting, reading, writing, exercising, playing sport – the things you used to love to do before kids, before marriage.
6. Accept that you are still a big part of each other’s lives
Even if you aren’t living together, you still have to work together. You still have to see each other, to communicate, to make decisions about the kids together.
And, guess what? You will have to continue to work as a unit for a very long time. Because, no matter what your relationship status, you are still a parent. And you are still part of a co-parenting team.
7. Always remember what matters
It’s not you. It’s not your ex. And it’s not his new partner or your new partner. It’s the kids. Even on the weeks when he’s being a complete ass, just remember, you don’t have to live with him anymore. You only have to co-parent with him. And you can do it.
Why? Because your love for the kids is stronger than your resentment towards him.
Every situation is different
Of course, this is not always the case. Many parents choose to stray from not only the marriage but also the responsibilities of being a parent when a relationship ends. This is even harder for the kids.
But if both of you are strong enough to admit that your marriage didn’t work and ready to give co-parenting a go, then we hope these tips can help you and your ex-partner find a way to work together, even when you are separated.