By Priscilla Wright, M.Ed, LPC,NCC
Making the decision to separate may be difficult for most people. When the decision is made, the parties involved may agree that this decision is best for the entire family. It is often not an easy decision to make.
During a separation or divorce the entire family is experiencing loss and may have difficulty adjusting to the new normal. Although many things may be different, two things remain the same: Mom is still Mom and Dad is still Dad. Even though the relationship or marriage is dissolved, parents must continue to be parents. Here are a few suggestions to help your family through this difficult time:
1. Allow yourself and your children time to grieve. You may feel waves of emotions ranging from sadness, anger, frustration, and confusion. Grief is a fluid process. Your child may also experience similar emotions. Encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings. Some children may harbor self-blame or think that it is something that he or she has done to cause the separation. Reassure your child that he or she had nothing to do with the decision to separate. When children are working though this difficult time they may become easily frustrated, regress to earlier forms of behavior such a thumb sucking or bed wetting, or may refuse to follow directives.
2. Make the decision co-parent versus parallel parent. Co-parenting is a joint effort it means working together to provide, protect, and prepare your child for their future as an adult. In co-parenting, each parent has a voice in the decisions that are made in the best interest of the child. Parallel parenting is parenting separate but not together. In parallel parenting, each parent has a separate set of rules on how the child should be cared for.
3. Put your child first. Make sure that the decisions you and your ex make are in the best interest of the child rather than a personal vendetta against the other.
4. Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Do not bash your ex in front of your child. If you yell at your ex in front of your child this may underscore the idea that it is not only acceptable to communicate in this way, but also that your ex is undeserving of respect as a parent.
5. Do not put your child in the middle. Do not explain to your child all of the details of your divorce or separation as this make your child feel like they have to choose a parent. Your child needs to know that both parents love them and not the details of the divorce.
6. You can co-parent separately but together. Develop rules around how you will communicate together regarding your. Take the time to plan the details around visitation, day care, education, and extracurricular activities. The best person to make decisions are the parents.
Priscilla Wright is a licensed professional counselor practicing at Commonwealth Behavioral Health Inc. located in Midlothian, Virginia. Ms. Wright holds a master’s degree in Counselor Education and is currently completing a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Ms. Wright is also a National Certified Counselor. At Commonwealth Behavioral Health Inc., Ms. Wright works with children, adolescents, and adults on issues to include stress management, co-parenting, as well as anxiety and mood disorders. Ms. Wright believes in a holistic (looking at the person as a whole) approach to practice. Ms. Wright’s research interest includes topics on intellectual disabilities, stress management, and topics regarding family systems.
If you are interested in taking co-parenting classes, please contact Commonwealth Behavioral Health.