How can you manage your child’s special events as a co-parent? Guest blog by Marcie Shaoul of The Co-Parent Way

How can special events be managed for children when parents separate? A guest blog by Marcie Shaoul of the Co-parent Way

When you’re going through a divorce or separation and you have children, one of the things that you may not immediately realise is that those memory making events can suddenly become a tense and upsetting minefield. School plays, concerts, sports matches which had previously been completely joyful now come with mixed feelings because it means you have to spend time with your ex. Particularly tricky can be birthday parties, graduations, and significant family events which can come with a massive amount of pressure.

 

I just want to start with some information that might help you a little bit whether you’re preparing for a short recorder concert, or your teen has the starring role in Hamlet. In order for your children to feel safe and whole and resilient, they need to see you interacting well together. This doesn’t mean that you need to like your ex. But it does mean you need to self-manage enough to be able to interact with them in front of your children in a respectful and civil way.

 

At The Co-Parent Way, we call this the co-parental loop. It takes two parents to hold up the loop after separation, meaning we have to take responsibility for our own communication and interactions with our ex. If we don’t manage to have a civil interaction or indeed any interaction, then the loop fails and our kids see this and pick up on this and it rocks their world. All they want is for you to be able to continue to parent together, to be able have some continuity in what is a very destabilising time. The more acrimonious you make it, the harder you make it for your children.

 

We know it’s not easy to do this and we need to think about what you can do to help manage these times when you are going to have to see each other. Here are five tips to help you on your way.

 1.     Forward plan – don’t stick your head in the sand. Think through the situation. What would be the worst outcome for your child, and what would be the best? What can you do to make sure you are contributing to it being the best outcome? Even if it’s just one small thing, it will make a difference. It might be that you decide to have a very short conversation with your ex, it might be that you meet beforehand so your child can see you walking in together. Whatever it is, you will need to self-manage the emotion that may come alongside it. And thinking about it in advance will help with this as you’ll be more prepared. And when you have thought through in advance how you will deal with a situation, it’s much more likely to go smoothly.

2.     Be polite. Don’t be rude. Whatever is going on in your financial settlement, however much the trust has broken down, these are adult problems. They are not the fault or problems of your children. You need to hold it all in in front of the children. Smile and say hello. Let your child hear you talking to each other about how amazing their show was. Let them bask in the warmth of that. You can go out afterwards or call a friend to let off steam, as long as it’s not within earshot of your kids.

3.     Sit next to each other if possible. This one comes up a lot in our coaching and we get lots of emails about it from our online course participants. “Do I need to sit next to my ex’? Well, bluntly, yes please. Think about it from your child’s point of view for a moment. If you’re able to do this then do it.

4.     Arrange for a friend to be around for you for afterwards, have a sounding board, go for a walk do whatever it is you need to do to decompress after you have done a great job of keeping things calm for the children.

5.     Have a united front with your ex. Agree the boundaries beforehand. It’s highly likely that neither of you want to sit next to each other, so, if you’re able to, have a message exchange beforehand to agree the boundaries and what you will and won’t do.

I know this is hard to do and it requires us to be on hold for a while whilst we deliver for the children. But the positive impact it will have on them will be big.

Good luck. If you have any questions please email us at hello@thecoparentway.com and we’ll get back to you.

 

Marcie Shaoul is the founder and Director of the award winning The Co-Parent Way and the  The Co-Parent Way Essentials Course – an on-demand self paced programme for separating parents. For more information please visit www.thecoparentway.com

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