“we are in chaos because we don’t have the skills, knowledge or understanding to resolve complex problems that involve a family system of disparate people”
Post separation/divorce is a very difficult time for the whole family. Everyone who is affected seems to suffer a deep sense of grief and loss. Children lose access to a parent and vise versa, social networks become strained, finances and other pragmatic problems need to be solved and decisions need to be made. It is fair to say, that in the aftermath of separation, chaos ensues. Co-Parenting can be a major stumbling block.
“Children need to see mum respecting dad, because they love dad too”
Its a very delicate and sensitive period for all and if emotions run too hot and if decisions are made rashly or without collaboration things may just get worse before they get better. High levels of empathy, emotional intelligence and aptitude are needed from ‘mum and dad’. However, at this point, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, we are in chaos because we don’t have the skills, knowledge or understanding to resolve complex problems that involve a family system of disparate people.
In most cases, the children tend to stay with mum after a separation/divorce. So the questions is, how can the family keep the children connected to dad and dad connected to his children in a meaningful way? How can dad be supported to maintain a sense of identity as father and be positioned to fulfil his role as generative, caring and loving father? All children deserve to have dad in their lives, even when the parenting relationship breaks down.
Here are three simple, yet, interrelated focus areas:
- Share the moments
Sharing is caring. If there is something positive to share, do it. Take a photo of the kids playing and message it through. Take a picture of the ‘Student of the Week’ award. If little Johnny has a cold , let dad know. Send over some pictures or memorabilia for dad to decorate the fridge with. Keeping dad in the loop whilst he is unable to be with his children is so important, and a simple thing to show the children that even after separation, their dad is still valued and appreciated as their father.
- Collaborative decision making
Decisions still need to be made after separation for the best interests of the child/ren, Dad’s rightly believe and expect that they will be able to contribute their ideas and point of view on a whole range of issues and decisions that need to be made. Having the opportunity to be a part of a broader discussion that involves the children makes dads feel like they are valued and that they are still taken seriously when it comes to the parenting of the children. The children want to know that dad cares enough to be involved in discussion about important decisions and that mum values his opinions. They need to know he cares too.
- Attuned communication
Its even more important at this post separation period, when emotions are boiling over, to think and create space before speaking, to choose words wisely and hold off on those inflammatory texts or emails. Words can be hurtful and over a long period of time, can damage any future chances of effective co-parenting. Attuning into your own emotions and being open rather than defensive can be a great start to reflective communication that is effective and productive and not aimed at shaming and blaming. Effective and productive communication results in better outcomes for all, especially the children.
Three very simple and hopefully manageable tips on how to keep the kids and dads connected after separation. Its not rocket science, but, in the chaos of post separation families its important to get the little things right. Share the day to day stuff, remember dad has ideas too and finally keep the the communication civil and respectful. Children need to see mum respecting dad, because they love dad too.