Telling your children you are separating
Even though your relationship with each other may have ended, when there are children involved, it is inevitable that you will remain in each other’s lives to some degree. The way you approach co-parenting initially, will set the standard for your relationship as your children grow up. It is therefore important to set off on the right foot. If possible, try to sit down together and agree when and how you are going to tell the children.
If possible, try to keep communications constructive, child focused and blame-free. If conversations become tense, agree to leave the matter there for now and return to it when you’re both able to have a calm discussion or take a minute before responding.
Be courteous to the other parent’s feelings and think about what you would want to know as a parent to avoid tension e.g., if there is a new partner, a holiday planned or a new activity you want the child to be involved in.
If there are ongoing disputes about contact or finances, the children should not be involved in these. Whilst it’s not always possible, do try to shield the children from any disputes.
Avoid using your children to pass on messages to the other parent; this can unintentionally put them in the middle of your relationship which can be harmful.
Always avoid denigrating the other parent to or in earshot of the children.
Share information from school or nursery as this will help the other parent feel involved in the day-to-day care of the children, even if they aren’t there.
Cooperation & Consistency
Try and agree what rules will be in place for the children (e.g., bedtimes, homework, whether there will time-limits on screen time). It is important for children to have structure and consistency across households.
If possible, support the other parent in their approach to discipline. Make the other parent aware of bad behaviour so both parents can address this with the child directly.
Children can be hard work and you’ll be grateful to have someone on side.
Utilize parenting platforms
There are many apps, such as Our Family Wizard, 2 Houses and WeParent, available to help facilitate co-parenting and can provide a one-stop shop for sharing information, including shared calendars to ensure everyone is aware of important dates, can help manage expenditure and provide a shared photo album. Some provide a way of encouraging neutral communication between parties by offering alternative phrasing suggestions and flagging how certain messages may be perceived by the other parent.
If relations are particularly sour, parenting apps can reduce direct contact, which can help eliminate some of the hostility.
Further guidance and support is available on the Resolution website, and in their Parenting Through Separation Guide.
In most situations, it is beneficial for children to have a relationship with both parents and for the relationship to not be dictated by the other parent’s feelings. Above all else, it is important for both co-parents to focus on the needs of the child.
Co-parenting successfully takes time and not everything will be smooth sailing, particularly with the emotional and practical challenges involved. It is important to recognize you may need the help of third parties be that mediators, friends and family members or a solicitor to help understand your position and achieve what is in your child’s best interests. Our solicitors can advise on options outside the court process including mediation, can facilitate collaborative discussions between parties or help to formalise any agreement to provide certainty for all involved.