If separated parents try to maintain an overly friendly relationship with each other it can be very confusing for the children, especially the younger ones.
If the kids have been given a clear, firm message that Mummy and Daddy no longer love each other and will now be living in separate homes as they can’t live together any more, the children will have accepted this, so if parents are behaving as if they are still an in tact family how confusing is that?
Most children will harbour a hope that one day Mum and Dad might get back together again, it is very natural for them to feel this way, but in reality this doesn’t happen too often. So, are overly friendly parents cultivating this false hope by behaving in such a way that could suggest to a child that a reunion is perfectly possible?
For some unlucky children it might have been that they have witnessed their parents having regular conflict in the latter stages of their relationship. This can and does create a lot of anxiety in children; they can become hypervigilant and will constantly look for signs of conflict occurring every time they see their parents together, even in the most innocuous of circumstances. So to see parents sitting together at a school concert or watching a sporting event alongside each other can cause enormous angst in children and affect both their emotional well-being and their performance!
During the course of separation and divorce there will be contentious, difficult times even for the most amicable of ex partners. It is a big ask of parents to put aside all the negative feelings they may be experiencing towards their ex, just so they can appear to be a friend to the other parent. Is it not better to keep contact with each other to a minimum, just discussing their children’s needs in an adult, civilised manner when they have to, rather than creating the façade of still getting on together? Potentially the strain of being too amicable can be the catalyst that creates animosity between separated parents.
Finally what about the closure that is needed when a relationship ends? It is very rare to find two adults in total agreement that a relationship should end, the ‘ender’ is usually much further along the emotional pathway than the person who is being left. This means to prolong a closer relationship than necessary with the ex can be very difficult for some and emotional recovery can be delayed. Parents need to be as emotionally robust as possible for the sake of their children and for some this means that keeping their distance from their ex partner is essential when thinking about their own self care.
So I would definitely encourage a civilised, cordial relationship with the ex, but one that has definite boundaries in place, with no pressure to attend events together or to behave in a hypocritical way because you believe it is in the best interests of the children.
If you would like further advice, please do contact me.