According to The United Nations Rights of the Child, it is the right of the child to have contact with both parents after parental separation; yet many parents see it as their right, as parents, to have contact with their child.
When it comes to contact with children, mums can hold the power from day one: they carry the baby for nine months so straight away they make the very first decisions about the baby. All too easily, fathers can take a back seat in parenting and when a separation occurs they can struggle to assert their position as an involved father. So many separated fathers, whom I work with, want to be hands-on fathers. Men are as capable as women but culturally we are often led to believe they are not.
It is not good for children to see two parents without equal status. If society doesn’t encourage fathers to play an active role in parenting then we are not allowing children the full opportunities they are entitled to: the right to both parents provided it is safe for the child.
We need to separate out poor partners from poor parents: it is a different relationship. Children only have two biological parents; allowing them every opportunity to have a relationship with both parents is important to the positive outcome of their lives. Here we offer ’10 ways’ to support your child through shared parenting:
- Explore what prevents you from allowing the other parent to have an active parenting role. Is this a genuine concern based upon facts or an opinion you have formed? Does your child feel safe and happy with the other parent? Try to follow their lead. Take small steps to try and build confidence in their ability.
- Start with small steps changes in contact. Talk with your child about what they would like to happen.
- Reassure your child that you trust that their other parent loves them and therefore you want both parents to be active in their life.
- Ask the other parent to do practical things to support parenting rather than only getting involved for the fun parts.
- Allow them to have opportunities to take children to and from school, to the doctor, the dentist and to after-school activities. Your child only has one life, it does not need to be separated into mum’s time and dad’s time.
- Share practical information with the other parent about your child’s development and everyday life. Know what stage your child is at. Don’t expect to be told everything, find things out for yourself, ask questions, read up on child development and talk to the school if you are a legal guardian.
- Pay your maintenance and don’t argue over the cost of raising a child. If you receive maintenance be realistic about what the other parent can afford. If you were parenting in the same home you would do everything you possibly could to ensure your child has what they need. It cannot be any different just because you parent separately.
- Buy what your child needs and not what you want to buy for your child. It is always lovely to treat children but not when it means they have no winter coat. Talk with the other parent about what the child has and what they need.
- Ask your family to respect your child’s other parent. They are, and always will be, the parent of your child. Children need to know that family respect their parents. It is not healthy for the extended family to hold prejudice over parents.
- If you are finding it really difficult to allow your child have a relationship with their other parent, seek professional support to explore the reasons for this. There is obviously a lot of hurt and I am not dismissing this in anyway but if you can move on you will allow your child to have positive experiences.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
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