Getting the right help
Tamariki will need lots of support adjusting to the split but if dad and mum are struggling themselves it can be hard for them to give that help. It’s important then to look further for the right type of support for each family member. Arranging custody, organising money or property or the need for protection orders will need professional or legal advice.
Counselling or joining a group programme could help with the emotional upheaval. Talking with a trusted friend who’s experienced a relationship breakup and could offer practical advice or share their strategies for coping may be helpful too.
Keeping emotions under control
Feelings of anger, resentment, loss or fear can negatively influence what we say and the decisions we make. Speaking calmly about the ‘ex’ can be hard, particularly if the split has been difficult, but doing our best to control our emotions especially in front of the tamariki is so important for their wellbeing.
They will have their own views and feelings about the breakup which will likely differ from the adults. Avoid putting tamariki in a position where they feel like they have to take sides.
Share the parenting and put tamariki’s needs first
Arrangements about care of, or access to tamariki should be carefully thought through and agreed on with the support of a mediator if necessary. Unless there are valid and proven reasons why either mum or dad should not have access, agreements require 100% commitment from them both.
Communicating openly and honestly, cooperating with each other and sometimes being flexible is how it will work best. Withholding access to the tamariki, not taking responsibility for their care at agreed times or using them as ammo against each other is not putting them and their wellbeing first.
Keeping each other in the loop
Sharing any upcoming changes with the other parent helps tamariki so much because they thrive on predictability and feel safe and secure when they know what’s happening in their lives. Whether it’s moving house, changing jobs or introducing a new partner, anything that might be worrying or stressful for tamariki needs to be openly shared.
No matter how hard or overwhelming if feels - don’t give up. Shattered parents have been known to disappear from their tamariki's lives and not only is it heart breaking for the tamariki it can leave them feeling like they’re responsible in some way for the split.
Keep in touch with younger tamariki using Smart phones or Skype calls. For the older ones text or talk using social media. This affirms for them that even though mum or dad is living somewhere else they still care about them, they still think about them and want to see and hear from them often.
Tamariki may need help keeping in touch with their wider family too. Parent’s separating shouldn’t keep them from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s up to the adults to work together to make that happen so tamariki never feel they’re not wanted or welcome within their extended whānau.
Remembering to ask for help
Sole parenting can be a huge adjustment for some, especially when previously the other parent has done most of the day-to-day caring. If you’re really struggling, ask for help - your own parents or grandparents, your friends, neighbours and extended whānau are probably all very willing to lend a hand.
Or if you happen to be one of those in the support network of a couple whose relationship has ended maybe you could offer to help? Childcare, transport, cooking or maybe just a listening ear?
It is possible to end a relationship with a partner and remain positively connected and it’s so worthwhile in the long term for everyone, tamariki especially.
Parenting resource links:
- Relationship break downs
- What do the kids need when a relationship breaks down?
- How are the kids coping with their parent's separation?
- When a relationship ends
Other information that might be helpful
This Ministry of Justice website is full of helpful information for whānau going through a relationship break-up - www.justice.govt.nz/family/relationship-break-up
This link focuses specifically on the needs of children when their parent’s relationship ends - www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/parenting-through-a-break-up/putting-your-children-first/#Co-parenting