Separation can be an isolating experience if you are an LGBTQ+ parent. Where do you look for guidance if the models for post-separation parenting that you see around you for just don’t fit? How do you access support when the available services don’t seem to respond your family’s needs? Rainbow Families has responded by developing “The Separation Guide”. Like our other resources, the Guide draws on the experiences of community members. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to those who have been incredibly generous in telling their stories and sharing their wisdom from lessons learned. They are doing post-separation parenting in the way that works best for their families.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, separated parents have had to be flexible and child-focused in co-parenting their children. The changes and ongoing uncertainty regarding work, school and other activities has meant an anxious time for many people and brought additional challenges for co-parenting. While few of us saw this coming, the ability to respond to unforeseen events is the mark of a good co-parenting relationship.
A good co-parenting relationship isn’t automatic though. It takes hard work and time and the willingness to develop good communication. Some parents might not get there for reasons beyond their control and safety should always be the priority. It’s about putting your child first but it’s also about not making things hard for yourself. The way you manage situations from the beginning will establish a foundation for the future.
Let’s say it’s October 2020 and your ex-partner has contacted you to say they would like to swap weekends next month to take your four year old son, Jimmy to family event on the Gold Coast. Their new partner will be coming. How do you respond?
You could immediately refuse, telling your ex that they should stick to the plan, making an excuse about it being disruptive for Jimmy. Your ex accuses you of being unreasonable and the argument escalates as Jimmy comes out of his bedroom. In the aftermath, the communication becomes so strained that you can’t have a sensible conversation about Jimmy starting school next year. You worry about how you would manage a medical crisis and in your darker moments, you wonder if your ex might try to take Jimmy away from you with it all ending up in court.
Alternatively, you might realise your reaction comes from a heady cocktail of emotions involving your ex re-partnering. You tell your ex you will give it some thought and get back to them. You decide that the swap actually isn’t going to have much impact on Jimmy (or you) and it would be great for him to see his cousins. You even start to feel a glimmer of acceptance of the new partner and what they might be able to bring to Jimmy’s life.
Putting aside hurt and frustration to focus on your child is not easy. However, it helps to focus on the end game – what kind of co-parenting relationship do you want and what will/won’t help you get there? There is nothing wrong with being strategic and doing your ex a favour so they might be more likely to do the same for you in the future. Co-parenting is about give and take. Ultimately, you will be in a much better position to work together to resolve complex or unexpected situations as they arise. Children grow and parent’s circumstances evolve and having the flexibility to respond to change is vital.
All this and more is in our Separation Guide.
If you have any feedback on the guide please contact us.