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New Year's Resolution - Successful parenting with your ex

Updated: Sep 27, 2018

Claudia Abelheim, educational psychologist and head of Youth Services at The Family Life Centre.

Many divorced / separated families have experienced hostilities during the festive season with both parents wanting to enjoy the holiday period with their children.  With the advent of a New Year bringing on resolutions many would benefit by addressing this conflict for the best interest of the children. Below are some important questions asked by many journalists about parenting in separate homes.

What is the golden rule of good co-parenting?

Your children’s best interests should always be your priority.  When a couple gets married and have children, they always bring parts of their own upbringing and family background into the new family, even if it is done unconsciously.  This means that couples often find themselves in a situation where they have very different styles of parenting.  Compromise and open communication is key in finding a new style that suits both parties and the children.

What is the value of having a good Parenting Plan in place?

A good parenting plans puts boundaries and systems in place to cover all areas of parenting.  This provides a framework for parents to work from when difficult or challenging situations arise.  This is important to eliminate confusion and conflict, which in turn eliminates confusion for the children.  Hopefully a good parenting plan will ensure consistency for the child, which is important for developing children in order to create a sense of safety and security in the world around them.

What are some of the psychological challenges that can arise for the co-parent, and how can one deal with them?

Having a different style of parenting from your partner can be very frustrating for both parties involved.  This can often cause tension and conflict between the parents which results in fighting and puts a strain on the relationship.  If one parent is more dominant than the other, it can result in feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and a sense of failure for the more submissive parent.  Attending parental guidance or parent education courses or groups can help parents find a more cohesive style of parenting that suits both parties’ styles.  Having children can often bring up personal issues from one’s own childhood and the way one was parented.  Individual or couples counselling can assist in exploring these issues.

What are some of the social challenges that can arise for the co-parent, and how can one deal with them?

Certain societal norms still exist with regards to what is thought to be the best way to parent.  Parents may feel that they are not good enough, or not raising their children in the “correct” way; the way in which their society or culture expects them to.  Furthermore, living in a country as diverse as South Africa brings with it its own challenges.  Children are exposed to many different cultural and societal norms, and this can create challenges for parents, especially when they feel they are being compared to other families and parents.  It is important to remember that everyone in the world will have a different style of parenting, and there is no perfect formula!  Keep your child’s best interests at heart and do the best you can. Support groups can also help in these situations, and they help parents realise that they are not alone and that everyone has struggles at some point or another.

The Family Life Centre offers Post Divorce Parenting Skills training, facilitated by Heidi Reynolds a counselling social worker who heads up our Parenting Skills Training

Goals of this programme:

There is a difference between a separated family and a broken family. This programme will help you (and your ex) to focus on re-negotiating your relationship with one another, and to help you to focus on parenting your children effectively, to ensure that yours is not a broken family.

The focus in this programme is on helping you to ‘Stop Fighting and start Parenting’ it will help you to develop effective and practical ways of communicating with the other parent of your children, as well as help you develop additional parenting skills that will help your children adapt to the change in their family.

The Family Life Centre would be delighted to assist you with our professional input with articles, or to appear as guests should you wish to address the above topic.  Please contact Bernadette at


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