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Working Together as Parents

There are around 3.9 million children growing up in the UK with separated parents. It is not uncommon.

Children can cope really well with this arrangement if they are not caught up in ongoing arguments and unhealthy relationships between their parents. The separation can be a relief to everyone if things had been difficult before the separation.

Ideally children should be able spend time with both of their parents. When parents are able to continue to work together to support their child and make decisions that affect their lives children can continue to thrive. If at all possible children value both parents being able to come to school events and share in their good and bad moments. A reliable routine of when children will see each parent help them stay connected and feel secure.

This is of course not always the case. Some parents continue to struggle to be around each other and continue to feel angry and upset about how the relationship ended. There may be financial and practical issues that make it hard. The relationship may have been abusive and not safe for your child to be around. Some parents do not choose to continue to see their children, and some parents make it difficult for the other to do so. In these situations children will find it much harder to cope and may feel ‘stuck in the middle’.

If you are worried that your child needs support to cope with their feelings talk to school about this. Or contact Just One Norfolk for advice on the contact details below.

Having parents who are looking after their own wellbeing at a difficult time will make a difference to you, and how your child feels too. Talk to family and friends. If you are struggling access your own help; contact Norfolk Wellbeing Services *here*.

Schools are sensitive to the difficulties families face. If this has happened before your child starts school, or whilst they are attending, let the staff know. This will let them keep an eye on any changes in your child’s behaviour and be sensitive to their feelings. They can also help both parents keep updated on their child’s school life.

  • If you plan to have a baby together whilst not in a relationship, take the opportunity to talk about your views and ideas on how you want to raise your child.

    • Discuss your own childhoods together – what would you like to do the same? What do you want to do differently?
    • Talk about how you will support each other to build a bond with your baby. How will you make sure you help each other rest?
    • Talk about the practicalities of contact, money, housing and changes that might happen in the future. How will you cope with disagreements?
    • Agree to regular catch ups to make sure the arrangement is working and you are both working together for your child.

  • Your new partner may also have children. Families come in all shapes and sizes and the ‘joining up’ of family units is very common these days. If parents are sensitive to the needs of their children this can be a positive experience.

    Again it is important to give it time to be sure that you feel this is likely to be a lasting relationship. Start slowly. Relate have some good advice on managing the challenges of a blended / step family *here*.

    Discuss beforehand how you will manage any misbehaviour or disagreements between children. It is important that this is done fairly and children do not feel that there is ‘favouritism’.

  • Every relationship has times when it is difficult to get along. If there is arguing, upset and bad atmospheres it is hard for everyone. We know this is very true for children.

    Children who are around conflict between their parents notice it. Children are aware; even if you think that because they are little, or are in bed or in another room they will not know. Children are very tuned in to the world around them. They can be scared and worried when their parents aren’t getting on.

    Learning how to manage disagreements in a healthy way sets a good example to our children. Learning how to share how you feel, and listen to how others feel is a good skill for life. Try Relate’s ‘Argument Check Up’ *here*. See how you and your partner can improve the way you discuss things.

    If the arguments continue counselling support can make a difference. You can go together or separately. It can give you time and space to work out how to improve your relationship. You might decide the relationship is over. Relationship counsellors can help you manage this as well as possible for you and your children.

    Sometimes relationships are not healthy and your relationship can be abusive. There is some information on signs your relationship could be unhealthy *here*. It can be very hard to accept your relationship is unsafe for you and for your child. Growing up around domestic abuse can cause long term harm to children and young people. Find someone to talk it through with there are local services to help you *here*.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.

*Click Here* to speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. 


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