I heard a Father say the other day that the worry that comes with being a parent has only increased for them as their child was getting older. As children grow, the things they have to tackle and the decisions they have to make get so much bigger. A parent’s work is never done.
People facing separation right now, are often focussed on just that- the right now. My clients are rightly worried about whether they are going to be okay immediately after their family law matter resolves, they don’t often remember that they have a lifetime of co-parenting ahead with so many big discussions that will inevitably ‘pop up’.
I assist people who have been separated for many years, but now face a new challenge with their ex. I have spoken with people who can’t agree on their children’s schooling, how to deal with their child being bullied or facing a mental health challenge. Common disagreements between separated parents, way down the track from their separation, include- medical treatment, extra-curricular activities and their child’s commitment or reticence toward those, vocational pathways and even managing their child getting into a relationship of their own!
If you find yourself at a stalemate with your ex involving a ‘big thing’ that your child faces, there are so many options available to you. Whilst it’s easy to feel like your former partner’s management of an issue like this poses a risk to your child, that might not be the case. In these scenarios, you certainly don’t need to engage the help of a family lawyer right away.
Understanding Your Child
Social science and psychology research tells us that our children are supposed to move away from their parents and home environment and toward their peer groups as they get older. This, of course, needs to be managed safely though.
I would encourage all parents to consider whether a behaviour demonstrated by their child is that child testing their independence and whether it’s a by-product of them growing up, before assuming that the issue has been caused by your former partner. This could save a lot of escalation and could cause you to pause, reflect, and lean in to your former partner so you can solve the issue as a united front.
Try A Meeting
If you’ve given your former partner the benefit of the doubt, attempted a conversation about tackling a problem together, and you haven’t been able to solve things, it might be time to get face-to-face.
I see a lot of co-parenting done over text. If a big worry has arisen for your child, it might be beneficial to find a neutral place to sit and discuss a single approach with your ex.
If, instead, you suspect your former partner’s behaviour and attitude toward you or your child is exasperating the situation at hand, family therapy is going to be a really great next step for you.
Family therapy involves a psychologist or counsellor meeting with you, your former partner and your child. They will then provide feedback to you and your former partner as to how you can best help your child through their tricky patch.
Maybe a conversation is not at all possible between you and your ex, but for the benefit of your child you still need to get to the bottom something big. A Mediator can be engaged to facilitate a conversation between two parents about a single issue. Importantly, if you are years past the family law process and your dispute relates to a single issue, you can approach a Mediator directly who will find a time for everyone to meet and will, importantly, help you both talk and will pass proposals for resolution between you. You don’t need to engage a family lawyer first to access a Mediator.
Co-parenting well takes hard work. I often say that refusing to collaborate and communicate, and choosing to hold malice toward your ex instead, is taking the easy way out. It is a big ask that we expect you to have difficult conversations with the person that you chose to no longer spend your life with, for the rest of your life. Though, if you do the best you can, and remember that not all co-parenting issues are legal issues, your child will thank you for it in the long run (well, maybe after they’ve died their hair pink and back again, most rebellious phases do come to an end!).