By Lorrie Brook, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (Mediator) with Family Law Services Online, the founder of Our Children Australia and the Co-Founder of the Separated Parents Orders Training Program. Lorrie is a leading expert in helping separated couples to move on by resolving their disputes using our tailored 3 step dignified separation process.
If you have ever been through a separation you know that it isn’t easy. You know the headaches and heartache that can ensue, and if you have children or property together, it may not be as simple as saying what needs to be said and walking away.
Indeed, as parents you may have to continue to see each other for many years.
To help ease the tension and make the process more encouraging, here are five strategies that can help you effectively cope with a separation:
- Give each other space
When a relationship ends, seeing your ex is often the last thing you want to do, but if you have to, make sure you have boundaries in place.
Your personal relationship won’t be the same – there will be a number of emotions at play and what may have been acceptable at one point, no longer is. Be prepared for the dynamics to change, and be prepared to step away so that you each have the breathing space that you need.
- Maintain some form of communication
This one is especially important if you have children. If you need to continue to co-parent, communication is an essential ingredient in this recipe.
Ensure that you have some form of communication in place. You may not want to actually talk to each other straight away and that is ok (and normal for many), but you may still need to text, email or even use a third-party program to help you with this.
Remember the key to establishing good communication from the get-go is to stick to the facts. Try and stay away from opinions, assumptions and accusations.
When people first separate and there is a lot of emotion at play, it is not hard to see how a simple message can be interpreted the wrong way. Communicating is not just about the message sent, it is also about how the message is received. So even if your text is harmless, if the other party interprets it differently, you are in the same position as if you had intended it that way.
If you set boundaries from the start, miscommunications can be identified and rectified.
- Be respectful
Manners go a long way towards amicable separations. Being able to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you can mean a great deal in a separation, so be careful to avoid sarcasm or rudeness.
Keep it simple and keep it factual. As your relationship strengthens your method of communication may change, but when there is no trust at the start of a co-parenting relationship, you cannot trust that your message will be taken in the right manner, so it’s best to leave nothing up to interpretation – verbal and non verbal.
- Take your time
Give yourself some time to trial new arrangements and be open to change. Be prepared to accept that they may not work for everyone.
Something that takes many parents a long time to come to terms with is recognising that children may be telling both parents completely different things. Why? Because they want to please both of you so they are telling you what they think you want to hear. Not necessarily what they actually feel. This is normal and everyone just needs to take time to adjust.
- Work on rebuilding trust
After a relationship breakdown, trust is pretty much non-existent. It is important that you both work on rebuilding this. You can do this with the little things consistently. If you say you are going to take the kids to the zoo, then follow through. If you promise to be at a school concert, do everything you can to be there. If you say you will be at your ex’s house at 4pm, call if you will be any earlier or later. This builds trust not only with the children, but with your ex too.
Separations aren’t easy, but there are ways to make the experience more tolerable for all involved.