Why your relationship with your ex-partner matters

However difficult the separation, and however badly someone has behaved, most parents need to learn to get along for the sake of the children.

The reason is that in most cases, the children will live with one parent and visit the other. This is not always the case. Some parents who have had a history of violence or child abuse, may be severely restricted by the court in the time they can spend with their children. Others (mostly fathers) drop out of children’s lives or only see their children occasionally. However, the majority of parents will need to get on. They need to coordinate transportation from one home to the other, and work out changes to the schedule if children are sick or cannot manage a particular weekend.

Parenting arrangements – whether court ordered or not – work best when parents can be a bit flexible and work out changes to the arrangements from time to time to accommodate children’s or a parent’s needs.

Furthermore, parenting arrangements may need to be renegotiated over time as circumstances change. The arrangements may be that Michael will spend time with his father, who lives 130 kms away, every other weekend from Friday after school to Sunday evening. What happens then if Michael starts to play soccer and his team plays locally every Saturday morning? Will he be able to play only every second week, or will the parents be able to work out some other arrangement?

Having an amicable separation requires parents to put aside their disagreements and ill-feeling sufficiently to be able to cooperate for the sake of the children. Most children really dislike it when one parent is critical of the other. Children are often hurt when one parent refers to the other parent in derogatory terms. Children don’t like being messengers or spies.

It is important therefore to give children permission to love the other parent, even if you no longer love one another.

The Parenting Research Centre in Melbourne has some good resources on helping parents who are raising children after a separation. See here.