Even though you have separated, you are still a mama all of the time. Here, divorce and relationships lawyer Sherika Ponniah shares five ways to successfully parent after separation.
By Sherika Ponniah
Life’s journey is filled with many joyful moments. That first cry of your newborn baby. The ‘SOLD’ sign going up on your first house. Watching your children collect flowers, or run along the beach.
And then there are the moments which you never thought you would be going through. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is considered the second most stressful event in life. Separation is listed as the third most stressful, with the death of a spouse taking the top spot.
Even though you have separated, you are still a parent all of the time. This means ensuring you make your circumstances work for your children rather than against them.
This is not always easy, and can be different for different parents based on the ages of their children, the engagement with the other parent, and the circumstances of the relationship breakdown. Separation is a time when your relationship with your children needs to be nurtured and protected more than ever.
Here are five tips to help you successfully parent after separation:
“SEPARATION IS A TIME WHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILDREN NEEDS TO BE NURTURED AND PROTECTED MORE THAN EVER.”
1. Focus On You
Before you can even begin to create happiness in your children’s lives, you need to be settled yourself. The period leading up to separation and shortly after can be the hardest. So take time out to recover from that, reinstate a sense of calm and try your best to let go of the feelings that you harboured prior to the separation. This is your time to move forward and create a new beginning for yourself and your children.
You might want to see a counsellor for regular sessions, start writing a journal of your thoughts and feelings so that you can watch them change, or throw yourself into a new hobby. Whatever helps you focus on sprinkling happiness on your life is worth doing soon after separation.
2. Maintain A Relationship
It won’t always be possible to maintain a relationship with your former partner for a variety of reasons, especially if family violence was involved. But, if possible and based on your circumstances, try your very best to maintain a relationship with your former partner such that you are able to communicate effectively. If you can communicate effectively, you will build a stable platform for parenting your children successfully.
Keep the children’s best interests at the forefront of your mind – if this means being cordial with your former partner then so be it. You don’t need to be BFFs, but it is very helpful to have open and effective communication as a springboard to successful parenting.
3. Support Your Children
Separation can be as taxing on your children as it is on you. Different children handle separation in different ways but you need to be prepared to support them through their emotional journey. Be armed with solutions. You won’t have all the answers, but provide your children with solutions to their underlying concerns: maybe it will mean more one-on-one time with you or your former partner. Perhaps they need to have regular sessions with the school counsellor. Or maybe they need a secure and settled environment set up for their new life. This is the time to listen to your children and read what goes unspoken.
If you don’t feel equipped to help your children, accept the help of a friend or family member who you and your kids are comfortable with. It is also very important to meet with your child’s school and let them know about the change in your child’s life.
Maintain your pre-separation relationships with family and friends. Look into a regular ritual or routine you can introduce to create a well-settled environment for your children. Due to the major change in your child’s life, keep other changes to a minimum if possible – maintain their usual after-school activities, playgroups etc.
4. Watch What You Say
Ensure you stay positive. Your children will easily build opinions and standpoints based on what they hear you say. You will compromise all the hard work you did in point 2 above if you bad mouth your former partner when they are in earshot.
Ask them about their time with Dad (or Mum, as the case may be) and what activities they got up to, but don’t delve into what was said or not said. The issues and problems between you and your former partner don’t need to be discussed with your children.
5. Plan Ahead
You might be thinking of re-partnering. If this is the case, start thinking about how you might incorporate this into your life and your children’s lives. Make longer term plans for your children in conjunction with your former partner (if possible and relevant) and your children (dependent on their age). Plan holidays and special events well in advance and communicate the plans early.
Keep re-visiting these steps and build on them. You will have good days and bad days, so be prepared for the yo-yo of emotions at the start. With a focus on sprinkling happiness on yourself, you will be able to filter the positivity down to your children.
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