If you’re finding co-parenting hard, that’s because it is hard. Parenting is hard. Human relationships always have ups and downs, and when you’re navigating the transition from an intimate adult relationship, through separation, to a co-parenting one, there are going to be times when it will feel insurmountable.
But there are many techniques you can both use to help you along the way. At The Divorce Surgery, we pioneered a One Couple One Lawyer service, enabling separating couples to share one lawyer who advises them together on divorce, to reach fair agreements on the division of their finances for a fixed fee and without conflict.
But when it comes to restructuring your family, and agreeing the right arrangements for your children, legal advice isn’t enough. You need help to learn how to be effective parents living apart. There are many future hurdles to navigate: schooling choices, introduction of new partners, managing teenage rebellion, and maintaining, above all, the integrity of your family structure, just in a new form.
Which is why we have created our Living Apart Parenting Together service, enabling separating parents to access not only a shared lawyer, but also a shared co-parenting expert, so you can reach agreement on the way forward, aware of the legal landscape, and with the strategies you need to maintain those parts of your co-parenting relationship which work, ditch the ones which don’t, and put your best feet forward for the rest of your co-parenting journey.
For this blog, we asked Barbara Mills QC and Bill Hewlett, who designed the new service with us, to give us their top tips for transitioning through your separation to a successful co-parenting relationship for the long term.
1. Look after each other
Remember (even though it’s hard and possibly the last thing you want to do right now) to keep in mind that the best way to look after a child, is for the parents to look after each other. If you make each other feel bad, it is going to result in your child feeling the consequences. Because they’re children, they’ll feel that it’s probably their fault that you’re arguing and therefore it’s their responsibility to do something about it.
2. Acrimony reduces caregiving capacity
The worst thing about making the other parent feel like they’re a bad parent, is that it turns them into one. If people make us feel bad about ourselves it affects our parenting and that affects how the children feel about themselves. If you can support and resource the other parent, so that when your child looks at them they see love, then your child will conclude that they are lovable.
3. Try to avoid ‘popping into the warehouse of resentment’
It’s hard when we’ve been hurt, sometimes thinking about how awful the other person is, makes us feel a bit better about what’s happened. It’s their fault not ours. The problem with negative rumination or rehearsing your story of righteous indignation, is that it’s very bad for your mental health, because it means you are flooding your body with adrenaline which is caustic.
4. Blaming helps us to avoid accountability
Actually in the short term, perhaps blaming someone else when life hasn’t worked out, is probably not a bad way of recovering, just until we get back on our feet. But when we get really entrenched in blaming someone and holding them 100% responsible, they probably won’t agree with you, so you bring in a lawyer, who agrees with you, and then the other person gets a lawyer, who agrees with them, then things are going to get sticky.
Which is why communication is so key. But can be very hard. For many couples, being given some impartial professional help at the start of their new co-parenting relationship is all they need to set them on their way to a much better, contrastive relationship which is fit for the future.