Conscious parenting. It sounds like a concept coined for Hollywood celebrities that doesn’t apply to people that live in the real world. However, just take a moment to think about what it means. Bringing your whole self to mindfully parent your children is the ultimate goal here. If you are contemplating or in the process of getting a divorce and there are children involved, you have probably experienced anxiety, guilt and fear, as well as a myriad of other emotions.
Separation or Divorce is a process and it takes at least 18 months to two years to adjust to your new reality. Healing from a broken marriage is not linear. The most important thing you can do is nurture yourself through it so you can take care of your children as they need you to.
You will be ok!
So how do you navigate co-parenting consciously?
Put your children at the centre of the process. It’s understandable that when you are in the eye of the storm it can be difficult to see clearly, but think about how you would like your co-parenting to look, how would you like it to feel, write down the key points and then take action to work towards it. If you feel yourself gravitating towards the negative emotions, take a few deep breaths and vision your children at the centre and start again. You may need to review this regularly, especially as your children grow and their needs change. Think of it as a working document.
Keep in mind that your children are going through their own stages of emotions. You and your partner are adults and have the coping mechanisms that they don’t, it will take time. Listen to your children, they need to be heard and reassured but do not confide in them they are not your friend.
It’s how you show up for your children that matters. Your children want their parents to be happy too. They hate it when you and your partner fight – it makes them feel unsafe. Don’t complain about your partner in front of the children, that is their dad/mum and they love them. Be respectful; try to hold some of the good parts of the relationship in your mind, especially if there is something related to the children. It helps keep the bitterness at bay. Be mindful that you are constantly showing and teaching your children what is acceptable in a relationship.
Ultimately children want to feel loved, safe and accepted.
Routine and boundaries are really important – it makes them feel secure. Keep your rules and discipline the same as before the split, children will feel unsettled if all of a sudden rules go out of the window. If the rules are different at your partners, do not get frustrated, they are your ex for a reason and you cannot change this situation. Focus on things on your end and your children will thank you for it in the long run. When the children return to your home, be light and do not interrogate them, watch your reactions and responses. Focus on spending quality time together and doing something they enjoy before you launch into the normal routines, this could be having dinner together or playing a game. With teens show them how happy you are to see them but give them some space and then initiate a chat.
It is important to set boundaries when co-parenting.
Firstly identify your boundary i.e. name-calling, shouting, ignoring calls. Then identify the consequences, let your partner know that if the boundary is crossed you will i.e. end the conversation, leave the house etc. Ensure that you follow through. Expect resistance and push back but remember your non-negotiables and stay firm. Be patient and consistent.
If you can both communicate calmly and clearly this is a major plus point. Do not communicate through your children, this is not fair on them and puts unnecessary pressure on them. If you find it difficult to speak to your partner, use email or What’s App. Keep your tone polite and business-like, put your personal feelings aside.
There will inevitably be bumps in the road; unfortunately, if you have children you cannot completely banish your partner from your life. Appreciate them for the good things they do.
Find tools to help you manage the difficult moments, could you incorporate some meditation or journaling into your day? Could you benefit from getting some support in the form of talking therapy or a coach? Remember you are going through a massive life change and you do not need to do it on your own. Reach out to family and friends, those that will uplift you, not those that will encourage you to complain about your partner.
Parenting can be tough but remember that you have all that they need within you.
If you can cooperate with your ex to put your children at the forefront they will thrive and eventually, you can build a different relationship with your partner, one that you can be proud of. If you find that despite your best efforts your partner is unreasonable and uncooperative, keep going, take action that benefits your children and your children will realise who has prioritised their needs.