What to do when the dream dies and it all goes pear shaped.
Marriage and relationship breakdown statistics paint a picture of very large numbers of families who no longer have both parents living in the home with their child. What is the definition of a ‘normal’ family now? Even most traditional families where mum and dad are together and living with their kids would struggle to own the label normal.
The modern family can be a long way removed from that, single parents, same sex parents, multiple parents/step parents.
Picture for a minute a couple separates and each re-partners, the children of the original pairing will have 4 sets of grandparents!!! That is a lot of people to negotiate and navigate and accommodate for Christmas, holidays and birthdays.
It can be so hard when a relationship breaks down to put aside your personal hurt for all you feel was the cause of the breakup. It’s easy to get caught up in the blame game and make it about your ‘ex’, but caught in the middle are the children who still love that parent, they are not an ‘ex’ to them, they are still mum or dad.
As parents our job is to minimise the impact a relationship breakdown has on our children, they did not cause it, they did not ask for it, but so often they pay the highest price for it. There are ways to do this, it takes maturity and putting our child at the centre thinking.
- Leave the adult business to the adults; too often mum and dad give too much information to the children. We place limits on what movies they watch, what video games they play, but think it’s ok to share intimate details about your adult relationship, negotiations or our feelings. That is what our family and friends are for, don’t burden the children with the responsibility of understanding an adult’s world before they have the emotional maturity to handle it.
- Speak kindly of your ex in front of your children and if that is not possible, the minimum standard is to not criticize or put them down . Your children are half you and half the other parent, so every time you say something unkind or critical of the other parent, your child will take it very personally because to them it is personal., the message your child receives is mum or dad doesn’t like half of me. If one parent isn’t playing the game, don’t cover for or make excuses, just name the behaviour, without judgement and move on.
- Consider the rights of your child before your own. So often parents will complain about their loss, their rights, but when you put your child at the centre, you will be willing to compromise what you want and your rights for the benefit and wellbeing of your child.
- Take your time to introduce a new partner, you might have moved on and be ready to dating, but your children are likely still hoping mum and dad will work it all out and will struggle seeing you with anyone else.
- Remember, you might think you have found the new love of your life, but your children didn’t choose them, you did. They need time to form their own relationship with them, no one likes to feel like we have to make friends with anyone, we all choose the people we hang out with, but we expect our children suddenly to embrace a new adult just because mum or dad likes them.
If you feel you need some support to navigate all this, reach out for help, your children are too important not to.