Parenting Through Stormy Waters
As parents, children tend to become the centre of our universe. They are all consuming from day one. They take our time, our energy, and they bring out every emotion we can experience. We love them in a way we could never have understood you could love someone BC (before children). But when couples separate sometimes the focus shifts. People can lose sight of their children amongst the hurt and anger they are now feeling, or they want to draw the children closer to themselves and away from the ‘bad parent’ who has done this to the family.
Obligations of the separating parents
As parents you need to protect your children from the conflict. They need to feel secure. They need to know that both their parents are there for them and will continue to love them no matter what. Importantly, children need to know that they do not have to take sides, that it’s ok to love both parents, and that the separation is not because of them. No parent wants their separation to have a detrimental effect on their child’s long term emotional development.
Keeping adult problems away from the children
While you may have real concerns about where you will live or what will happen next, children do not need to carry these burdens and they should not be encouraged to align with one parent against the other. Negative comments made about the other parent in the child’s presence or reliance placed on the children to emotionally support the perceived aggrieved parent, all draw children into adult issues. While they may seem resilient and wanting to support mum or dad, they are vulnerable to the conflict and susceptible to influence.
Third parties can help in most circumstances
For children there is benefit in being given access to an independent third party whom they can talk to about their feelings; a person who will help them to develop strategies to cope while their parents are in conflict. For parents, friends are a great source of support, but there are limits. An independent third party can also help you work through your own emotions in an objective and constructive manner, away from your children. Parents do need to work together to agree to the care arrangements for the children, providing certainty and stability, and a relationship with each parent.
Where to from here? Professional assistance
The children will also benefit from both parents attending the Parenting Through Separation course (this is free and you do not need to attend this together – visit https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/find-a-service-to-help-with-disputes/ to find a Parenting Through Separation course near you). If you need help to draft and/or negotiate a parenting plan or agreement then you can either attend Family Dispute Resolution or speak to a Family Lawyer who can help you with the agreement or discuss other options available to you. Separating is rarely easy and involves many legal issues and considerations from the care of children through to division of property. To help you navigate your way through your separation, we recommend seeking the advice of an experienced Family Lawyer who can assist you to identify the various options available to you and the best means of achieving resolution so that you can move forward and plan your new future.