Most of the available evidence strongly suggests that the children who adjust best to life after family separation are those that are able to maintain strong, positive relationships with both parents.
Choosing to be co-operative parents after divorce or separation does not require you to remain friends. However, establishing a business-like relationship with your child’s other parent will help your child to feel secure and loved through the transitions that separation brings. It will also mean that your child is less likely to suffer emotionally and psychologically in the years to come.
Accept that your child’s other parent still has a role
It can be difficult to establish a workable relationship with your child’s other parent if you they have hurt you or let you down. But, whatever has happened in your relationship, it's important to accept that you are still both parents to your children and, if possible, try to focus on any positive things that the other parent can offer your child rather than the things they are less good at. Your children will feel a great sense of security if they know that their parents are still working together for their well being. It is not necessary to like each other to work together – aim for a respectful business-like parenting relationship. Small acts of collaboration can improve things between you and give your children a sense of security and continuity.
Improve your communications
It is vital that you find ways to communicate - failure to do so can put your child at risk. Good communication will help to build trust between you which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. Pass all the important information about your children between you including school, health, appointments, behaviour and reactions to the separation. If it's too difficult to talk to each other face-to-face, try using the phone, email or text. However you choose to communicate, don’t ask your child to pass messages to their other parent on your behalf.
Set minimum standards and be ‘good enough’ parents
Many parents find some things difficult to reach agreement on after separation - it's part of the process. Mothers and fathers tend to provide care in different ways and this can lead to arguments about whose way is better. Try to agree some basic rules that you will both stick to around things like behaviour, diet, bed time, the amount of TV allowed etc. Beyond these minimum standards, accept that the other parent is doing a ‘good enough’ job.
Keep your children out of any disputes
Do your best not to argue in front of your children or make negative comments about their other parent in front of the children. Never block parenting time as a way of exerting control over your child's other parent and don't use financial support for your children as a way of exercising power.
You will undoubtedly run into problems and disagreements as you go through separation. These tend to become fewer over time. Don't let any disputes derail you or deflect you from your decision to work together for the well being of your children. Agree ways to resolve difficulties as soon as possible if and when they arise. Find ways of saying if you are unhappy about something before it escalates into conflict and don't be afraid to seek help and support if you need it. Be prepared to make mistakes sometimes – building a co-operative parenting relationship can take time but your children will thank you for it.