Separation is a challenging time for many parents because it is an adjustment to a new way of life. There are both positive and negative factors to separation and the corresponding changes, but one of the issues that can arise is the differences that parents may have in the ways that they parent the children. The key point or focus that parents need to address is that they must put the best interests of the children first, and that their role is to continue to be the best possible parents to their children, even though they no longer live in the same home.
In order to put the interests of the children first parents that are separated need to consider the following issues, and determine how they can accomplish the goal of putting their kids first and provide love, safety and security for their children.
Maintaining the lines of communication is critical to continue successfully parenting the children. Many incorrect assumptions are made that the other parent is aware of scheduling changes, school events, outings or other issues affecting the child. Often parents expect children to be the messengers between them, and this is a very difficult and emotionally harmful role for you child to have to play. Parents should discuss and determine a method that will allow them to continue to communicate about the children and to work together to make decisions in the best interests of the kids. This communication may be done by fax, email, voicemail, phone calls or face-to-face meetings, depending on the level of comfort or conflict.
No matter how carefully you plan or schedule your life there are always things that come up out of your control. As parents it is important to realize that this can happen for you, your ex-spouse and your children. Try to be as flexible as possible and allow the other parent and the children to have time together whenever possible.
Joint decision making
If you are able to communicate as coparents it is important to keep in mind that joint decision-making is usually in the best interests of the children. For difficult or major decisions it is helpful to get the other parent's input and opinion to prevent further conflict down the line. Most parents want to be a part of their children's lives even if they don't live in the same home as the children, and using a joint decision making process helps them stay connected to the children and helps to provide a sense of security for the children.
Stay positive about the other parent
It is important to allow the children to have the most positive relationship that they possibly can with both of their parents. The more positive, respectful and civil that Mom and Dad can stay with each other the more comfortable, secure and stable the children will view their new lives. Children need to understand that separated parents are still Mom and Dad, and will still continue to be a part of their lives, even thought they live in different homes or even in different communities.
Keep explanations to children as simple as possible, and avoid any negative comments about the other parent. As separated parents stay flexible, communicate openly about the children and allow maximum contact between your children and the other parent.
Jonathan Brown recommends Divorce Ontario for more information about successsful parenting after separation.
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