On a scale of 1-10, how well do your Mum and Dad get on?
The job of parenting is possibly one of the hardest jobs any of us will ever have to do in our lives.
When a couple separate, in all the hurly burly of upset, rejection, betrayal, stress, anger, hurt, loneliness etc that goes with the separation, the challenge of shared parenting for the longer term can easily be lost.
It is not that love for child is forgotten, far from it as many parents feel deeply anxious about the impact of separation on their child. All my clients tell me that the most important thing is their child’s wellbeing. However, whether for cultural reasons or simply the natural consequence of an intensely stressful and hurtful time, the breakdown between the couple can cloud their vision for meeting their child’s needs in the future as parents.
Building a Co Parenting Relationship after Separation
All the research shows that children need parents who can somehow rebuild some sort of successful parenting relationship after separation.
The job of parenting continues from the moment of birth right through until they find their own independence. Whether we are together or apart as parents, the job continues.
Thinking of the Future
I often ask clients this question: ‘If I asked your children now, how do Mum and Dad get on, on a scale of 1-10, what would they say?’ (1 is that they hate each other and never speak and 10 is that they are the best of friends)
Usually there is a rather sheepish look and the answer is a 2 or a 3.
My next question is ‘What would you like them to answer in 3 years’ time and in 10 years’ time?’
Very rarely would a parent answer 2 or 3. Usually they think for a moment and say ‘Perhaps 5,6,7? It would be good if we could be on reasonable terms for the years ahead.’
What will it be like when their daughter gives birth to their first grandchild in perhaps 15 years’ time? After the enormous effort of labour, when recovering in the post-natal ward, will their daughter have to choreograph when each parent turns up to meet their darling new grandchild so that they don’t meet each other in the hospital? Or will that be an occasion where they can stand alongside each other without stress?
These are long term goals and they don’t happen overnight. But, without the goal existing in the first place, couples can drift along at a 2 or a 3 for the years and the decades ahead. What would be your child’s answer now to ‘How do mum and dad get on?’ What would you like it to be in 1, 3, 10, 30 years’ time? And what would you like to do about it?
By Helen Adam of Wells Family Mediation
WFM is a family mediation practice based in Tunbridge Wells, with additional offices in Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Bromley and Kings Hill. It is run by experienced and specialist family mediators, three of whom used to practice as solicitors. All three partners are FMC accredited and are qualified to offer Child-inclusive mediation. Family mediation works well alongside advice and support for the clients from other professionals. We have good links with many local solicitors, as well as pension experts, IFAs, counsellors and those running Divorce Recovery seminars. Our practice is committed to working alongside those offering legal and other professional advice to our clients. In addition to seeing clients from Kent and East Sussex in our local offices, we also work one day a week in Central London.
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