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We are about to Separate, Now What? Parenting Edition

So you’ve made the decision to separate and now you have to work out what to do with the kids the house your money your pets and where are you now going to spend Christmas Day.  It’s a tough time with many things changing for you, your kids, your extended family, it feels like time moving at lightning speed some times,  while at other times it feels super slow.  It can feel like everything that you’re doing takes so long. 

I can help you with the legal stuff that you should be looking at when you separate and in our next blog that is exactly what I’m going to do.   

This blog is a quick and easy checklist for you to get through those initial couple of weeks after you separate when you have kids.  It is a time in your life when you will have big feelings about lots of things, you will feel like time is moving at various speeds and your emotions are all over the place.   

Lets start with the kids.

Children

I have spent many, many years acting for children when their parents are in CourtI have had years of training in this area and I have a few tips that I’d like to share.   

Be as honest as you safely can be

If it is safe to do so, it’s really important to let them know that you’re separating.   

If you are able to, speak to your ex and work out how you will tell your children that you are separating, it is important that you are on the same page about this and are sending the right message to the children.  If you aren’t sure how to break the news to them, speak to a child psychologist or the school counsellor to have a joint plan. 

You don’t need to tell them all the gory details about why you are separating, or that you or your ex are moving on with someone else or you really don’t like many things about their other parent.  It is not appropriate to chat to your kids about this, you don’t need to tell them “your side”.  They don’t need to know that information.   

Your children need to know that they are loved and will be cared for by both of you.

Remember this important fact

From the time our children are born we tell them how much they are like their other parent, how much they are like their other family members, their grandparents their aunties, their uncles and their cousins.   So now is not the time to start criticising those people, because children often worry that you are criticising them as well, remember, you and the other parent have been telling them their whole life that they are like all of  those other family members.  

Now is not the time for those conversations.  Let’s be honest it probably won’t be until there grown adults with their own families and children before you have those really honest conversations with them.  The main thing to remember now is that you have to be open and honest with them about their plans for them and their life in the next few weeks while you and your ex settled in to being “separated”. 

Helpful things to do as a parent or other caregiver

I think the list below is some of the most important things that you should keep in mind to make sure that your children remain happy confident and loved during this time. 

  1. Do you both still love me? You should remind your kids that they are loved by both of their parents and their family, even if their parents are no longer together.
  2. When will I see you again: You should set up a calendar or a roster on a piece of paper that you stick to the fridge that shows your children when they will see the other parent and that will help to reassure them that the other parent hasn’t left them or abandoned them that and that you both his parents have thought about them and their feelings and you know that they love both of their parents and want to see both of their parents.  This is really important so that kids feel like they don’t have to uh adopt the same feelings towards the other parent has you do they need to know that you are giving them permission to love their parents and look forward to spending time with them.
  3. I’m so emotional. You should ask your children how they are feeling regularly, especially if they are quieter than normal, or louder than usual.  You will need to be mindful the during these initial months and weeks, it is likely that your children will experience some big emotions while they are processing all of the changes in their lives.  At this time it would be really good idea to let their teacher, their school counsellor, the principal, and the ladies in the school office know what’s happening in your children’s lives so that if your kids do have big emotions at school, everybody will be there to support them.
  4. Where will I live? You should both tell them where they will be living and who they will be living with.  If this means that the kids are moving house, you need to let them know as far in advance as you can so there’s no surprise for them and they can settle into the emotion of moving into a new space.  They will also need time to process the newness of the situation, the many emotions that they will feel (just like you), the excitement, the sadness, the happiness, the anxiety and all of those things that come with moving or changing who they live with.
  5. Who will take me to school or training? You will need to let them know what changes will happen for their routine.  Will they need to change schools, sporting teams, will they need to catch a bus to and from school, will they need to go to before or after school care, who will take them to training, who will take them to music lessons, dance lessons or therapy or who will help them with their homework etc?
  6. I miss them. Kids need to be reassured that it’s OK and normal for them to miss a parent or other family member that they no longer living with 100% of the time.  This is a big change for kids especially when they’re used to both of you being home at one point or another during the day or the week.  It’s important for you both to let children know that if they want to speak to the other parent or a sibling who isn’t at the same house as them ,that it is OK for them to give them a call either on the phone or FaceTime or to chat to them via SMS etc. In the initial stages of your separation, it is not uncommon for  kids to want to speak to the other parent more than once a day, because they are used to just asking them something or telling them something.  Until they are settled in the new routine, and are confident that they will be seeing the other parent regularly, this will continue. It is really important that you keep that communication open and ongoing about when and where they will see the other parent and when they will be coming home to you.  As adults in their lives, we can help them by explaining to them when they will see the other parent and other family members such as grandparents, because prior to your separation, they may have had daily contact with those family members or friends.
  7. Where will Rover  and Felix live? This is often a huge issue for kids.  Where will their pets live?  Who will look after them when they are not there?  It will be your job to make the plan with the kids about the care of animals and then communicate the plan to all of the adults.  
  8. Communication about the kids.  Communication, especially when it is about your children is so important.  Despite the fact that you have just separated, your children need both of you to stay on top of their needs.  The worst thing you can do is to use your children as a messenger.  Don’t do it.  It’s not their job.  How can you stay on top of this important aspect of your co-parenting relationship?  Here are my top tips
  9. Choose how you will communicate.  Email, phone, sms or parenting app?
  10. If you aren’t using a parenting app, create a joint calendar.  A good free one is google.  You can share the space and add in events for your kids as you receive party invitations, sporting events such as training days, game days, music lessons or recitals, dance lessons or recitals, school events like assembly or the fete or trivia night.  

 

The usual things that slip through the cracks in times when a family is in crisis mode after separation are: 

  • Medical information.  This could be sharing a copy of a report, a diagnosis, medicine, details of the time, date, address and cost of the next specialist appointment, follow up appointments, or just going back to the GP to follow up some results.   
  • Party invitations.  Parties are a huge deal for kids.  Make sure you stay on top of the date, time, venue and communicate about who is buying the gift. 
  • School events.  Children love to see their parents and family at school events like athletic or swimming carnivals.  
  • Family members birthday parties or special celebrations.  Family gatherings are a time when our children form those life long relationships with their extended family, aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents and close friends that are part of your family.  It is really important to make sure that you give each other plenty of notice when these important events are on so that those relationships can be nurtured and your children feel part of both sides of the family.  
  • Holidays.  After separation, you and your ex will have different plans for your holidays.  You will need to coordinate your leave from work to make sure that when the kids are on school holidays, they are with one of you, a family member or in vacation care. This is another one of those times where I encourage you to give the other parent plenty of notice to make sure there is no clash with their plans.  That way, you and the kids will plan together and really enjoy. The key to making sure that your kids don’t miss out on holidays with either of you is to make sure you give each other notice of your plans. Taking your kids away on holidays is going to be fun and stress free provided you communicate with the other parent.  Remember, the times you spend together on holidays will be another opportunity to connect with your kids and share an experience, make memories and add another chapter or adventure to their life story.   

Key takeaways!

  • Be as honest as you can with your children
  • If it is safe, talk to your children together
  • Remember that your children need to know that they are loved 
  • Help them with their big feelings
  • Establish a way to communicate with your former partner about your kids

Do you have some questions about separation parenting? Kelly and her team can help. Give them a call on 1300 444 LAW.