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Supporting a child’s relationship with your ex

Maintaining a relationship with an ex-partner can be difficult in all circumstances, let alone when there are children involved. It is often the case that one parent has been deeply hurt by the other or mistrusts them as a result of their behaviour. However, it is important to recognise that whilst the roles of husband and wife (or partners) may have to come to an end, you continue to be co-parents to the children and this role often lasts a lifetime.

Communication between parents can become difficult following separation, with one parent frequently feeling that the other parent is trying to manipulate or undermine them. Whilst there may be a temptation to react immediately, it is often more helpful to take some time away from the conversation. This provide the opportunity to compose a well thought out response, focussing solely on the children and ignoring personal attacks.

These tips may help establish positive communication with an ex-partner:

  • Recognising that going forwards, all communication should be child centred.
  • Having a separate phone or email address, which is used solely to discuss the children, their wellbeing and arrangements for contact.
  • Never use the children as a negotiating tool, or as leverage for resolving other issues arising from the separation.
  • Try to avoid the children being used to pass messages between the parents. This can be difficult in circumstances where the children are older. However, efforts should be made to keep the children out of the conflict and conversations between parents.

A child’s view can be heavily influenced by a parent they live or spend time with. It is therefore important to be supportive of the other parent’s relationship. In most cases a child will benefit from the best qualities of both parents and denigrating the other parent in front of a child will impact their perceptions. If you can’t be supportive or positive about the other parent, it is better to say nothing at all.

Both parents are entitled to be involved in the major decisions concerning a child. This includes where a child lives, where they are educated, whether or not a child receives medical treatment and the religion the child is brought up in. If there is likely to be a change to any of the above, keep the other parent informed and seek their view on the issue. Communication really is key.

There will no doubt be occasions when an agreement cannot be reached in relation to a specific issue. In those circumstances, avoid discussing the difference of opinion with the child concerned. Mediation is often helpful to facilitate discussions between parents. Keep in mind that there are likely to be many issues on which parents may disagree in a child’s lifetime and consider compromising on the smaller issues. This will not only cause you less stress, but also help build a more amicable relationship longer term. An ideal relationship between parents is one where both parents respect and value the opinion and role of the other, despite inevitably disagreeing from time to time.

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