Tips on how to show your children what healthy, well balanced relationships are
Separation and children - let's not concentrate on 'the Law' for a moment
A lot of the clients I see day to day have children. Inevitably they ask me a lot of questions about how their separation will impact on the children and what the ‘law’ says they can and cannot do. And I usually say the same thing to all my clients – let’s not concentrate on ‘the Law’ (whatever they perceive that to be a reference to, and in most cases they think they that ‘the Law’ is a reference to their rights to the child… debunking that myth is entirely another blog!), lets look at how we can help your children through this separation.
And I find that a lot of people find it difficult to transition into this new relationship that they must inevitably have with the other parent. And it is an important transition because if it is done right, it minimises the impact on the children and it is the perfect, and I emphasis perfect, time to show your children what healthy relationships are. You both, as separated parents, have that opportunity.
And I hear clients say all the time “it’s not me, it’s them”, inferring that they are doing everything right and it is the other parent who is ruining or frustrating or whatever. And you know what – it is never just one of you. It is both of you.
Over the years since I have been a practicing family law solicitor I have seen a lot. Different families. Different personalities. Different everything – no two families are the same. But what I have noticed is that with all of these different families there are things that are very similar and that similarity is largely to do with the children and how they see and perceive and are influenced by the relationships they see.
Here are my tips for separated parents to show their children what well balanced and healthy relationships are like:
This is so important. Whether it is communicating with the other parent or communicating with the children. Children inevitably learn their communication styles from their family, and in particular by watching their parents – both their words and their body languages. So at changeover – make the effort to smile (!), say “hello, how are you?”. If the parent has re-partnered, ask how the new partner is going. Nothing too personal just “Hope Tom is well – tell him I said hi” – and be genuine! Your children will see that and it will be so powerful to them. They will pick up on so many things like – things that you will not even realise. SO often I hear stories of parents not even speaking at changeover! What impression is that sending to your children?!
Children need a degree of flexibility. You cannot rigidly stick to a routine and that be it. If the child has been invited to a birthday for Sally but it is on your weekend. Don’t just knee jerk react and say no, they have to spend time with me. Think about what it means to your child. What it means to their social standing (yes, even in primary school there is a picking order and it is noticed by their peers if they are not at an event that everyone else is going to). Take them. Meet their friends, Show them that you care more about them than your perceived ‘right’ to spend the time with them on your terms.
3. Quality over quantity
Be present with your child. Don’t think that you need to spend every second week with them to have a quality relationship with them. Sometimes less is actually more. You are not going to miss out. In fact less, more quality time with you child can actually strengthen your relationship and bond. I the shorter amounts of time you can be more present with the child – giving them more attention so that they can see what being ‘present’ in a relationship is like, being listened to. Instead of having long periods of time, where you have to work so they are in before and after school care, where you are racing home to make dinner whilst they are showering, then off to bed and then the day is gone – why not have that specific time to spend one on one time with them where you are not rushed and you can have meaningful discussions with your child to get to know them, who they actually are. That can often be lost on parents because they are too busy living life and getting through the day.
4. Give it time
Like any healthy, well balanced relationship, give it time. Don’t rush to increase the time simply because you feel it is your right to have that time (news flash – it is NOT your right!). Let them know that you are there for them and they will, on their own, search out more time with you as they get older. But trying to forcefully rush the relationship too quickly and too soon – will just result in the absolute opposite. Children need to feel secure and they need to be able to trust. If something is too much too soon for them, then they will inevitably not feel secure and they will lose trust because you are making them feel scared. So slow down – it will happen. Just concentrate on the above points in the meantime.
* I often find that ‘the Law’ does not help children. What I mean by that is the way the parents try and use the law as a shield and sword simultaneous does not help children. To be frank, in a lot of matters I do not believe that ‘the Law’ really helps children… What I mean by ‘the Law’ is how people try and use and abuse the law to suit their purpose. Not the purpose of the children. Their own purpose. Whether that is to increase their time or to decrease the other parents time. Whilst parents usually say that they are just doing what they believe is best for their child, it often does the exact opposite. And the reason why - it is the unintended psychological impact of how the parents are acting which affects children. Not the Law’s fault, which parents are often quick to blame. I’m not saying the law is perfect, but neither are some parents motives/actions.
Where to from here?
You are probably in one of three head spaces right now:
1. This blog post resonated with you but you are just not ready yet to do anything and just want to look at more information about Family Law – I suggest you look at the other Free Information we have on our website which includes FAQ's as well as Helpful Links and Contacts that may come in handy.
3. You are wanting more information about what you need to know after separation or you are ready to do something about your problem right now. If that is the case, then book an appointment with one of our Family Law solicitors by clicking here to make an online booking.