Dealing with your ex after divorce
You can split up. You can get divorced. But as long as you have kids together, you're going to have to have a relationship. The alternative, as far as your kids are concerned, will be a disaster.
Dealing with your ex after divorce or separation is rarely easy. But take this as your starting-point: whatever has happened, whatever you've been through, the one thing you're sure of is that both you and your ex want the best for your children.
Post-split golden rules
- "We may have split up, but we both love you just as much as before." That's the crucial thing your child needs to know, and to believe.
- Put your child's needs before your need to row, or argue, or point-score with your ex-partner. And yes, we know that's going to be tough.
- That means not arguing in front of your children - not on the doorstep, not on the phone (within hearing). Not ever. We said it was tough.
- It also means not criticising the other parent when he's not around. You see how tough it is?
- Don't heap your emotional needs onto your child - talk to your friends, a counsellor, not to your children.
- Don't interrogate your child or children about visits to the other parent.
- Always be ready to talk - and if you absolutely can't, find a time as soon as possible to sit down to discuss your child's concerns.
- Read age-appropriate books on divorce with your child or children.
- Reassure your child that this is not his/her fault. And then repeat that reassurance, again and again.
A child-centred approach through mediation
For decades in Britain, the focus when a couple split up was on the warring parents. The 'adversarial' system, which pitted one partner against the other, made it more likely there would be further tension.
• How to tell your children about divorce
• Getting divorce advice
• Dealing with ex in-laws
• Talk: relationships
Now, though, the system is being overhauled - and it's the needs of children which are being seen as central. Mediation, and an emphasis on looking at what's happening from the child's perspective, is increasingly seen as the crucial element.
If you and your ex-husband end up in a family court, it's very likely you'll be mandated by a judge at some point to take part in a course about how to shield your kids from the worst of the divorce fallout. These courses can be very helpful, and parents who've been on them usually praise their value - so be open-minded.
The current approach is to encourage parents not to be so overwhelmed by their own difficulties and squabbles that they forget to notice their kids - who, in turn, are likely to be sad and confused.
Mumsnet wisdom on dealing with your ex after divorce
- "When my parents separated the hardest thing was the guilt when we were with one and not the other. Your children need to know you will be there for them - but not that they need to be there for you. My parents were much happier separated than together and it was only the animosity between them that caused us problems." ummadam
- "We negotiated our settlement around the kitchen table on a laptop then sent a spreadsheet to our respective solicitors. When his solicitor tried to cause a fight, we both asked them to stop questioning it and do as we wanted. I wouldn't say we're friends, but we're polite to each other and chat on the phone about the kids. The big thing we did early on was set out the ground rules about how we were to behave to each other and the importance of respect and politeness in front of the children." elastamum
- "My husband and I have been separated for nearly two years. We see or speak every day because we have a 50/50 custody arrangement; when I have my son we call Daddy to say goodnight and vice versa. Then after he is asleep we talk about his day. We're not friends in that I don't want to socialise with him, but we still talk and it is still warm and not in any way awkward or unpleasant. We knew we wanted it to be that way for our son and managed to sort out all of the practicalities without an argument." lifeissweet