Life after you separate

"That's it, we're through."

You've decided thats enough, you can't live like this anymore, you need to move on for you and your children. There's too much fighting, or he/she cheated, he doesn't contribute around the house, she doesn't take care of the kids, you can't agree on finances, your sex life sucks. There are many reasons for relationships to breakdown and to tell you the truth, if you have children, those reasons don't matter a whole lot. What? Did he just say that? Why?

A lot of people think that once they get a separation or a divorce that they never have to see, hear, or think about their former partner again. Wouldn't that be nice? Like our reasons above, we never want to see that person again. Well guess what, if you have kids you are still going to be seeing quite a bit of that person. Unless there are serious safety concerns for you or your children, your former partner will still need to be involved. They are still going to want to spend time with their children and be involved in their lives.

Did you know that your separation or divorce isn't actually going to have the largest impact on your children? It's the part that comes afterwards that will have the lasting effects on them. If you and your former partner are able to effectively communicate and get along (even if you don't like each other) for the sake of your children, they are going to thank you once they are older. Picture it, your little princess daughter grows up and gets married, wouldn't it be nice for her to have mom and dad be at her wedding to celebrate with her?

I can't tell you that it's always going to be fun and that everything's going to go swimmingly, I wish I could...really. The better the two of you learn how to communicate the better for yourselves and for your children. So here are 5 quick tips to help get you on the right path:

1. Adult Issues are adult issues: This one is easy and difficult for people. It's very easy to get wrapped up in the conflict and talk to your kids about it or have them find out more information for you. Don't put your kid in the middle. Don't take away their childhood. Please...I'm begging you, next time you go to talk to your kids about your ex please stop and realize that only the adults should be dealing with these issues. Talk to each other, not through your kids. If you need to talk to someone about what's going on for you, find a friend, family member, support group or get a professional, like a counselor.

2. Listen: This is probably one of the biggest things you can do. Just because your listening doesn't mean that you need to agree with what's being said, but you do need to know their perspective on the situation. Find out why they are saying what they are saying and you'll better understand what their concerns are. Some quick listening tips:
a) Clear distractions: Don't be looking at your phone, watching the neighbor walk their dog, or looking at the time. Put your full attention on the person speaking and try and understand their point of view.

b) Dig Deeper:
Ask open-ended questions about what they are saying. Get to why they are saying what they are saying. Clarify and repeat back so that you can be sure that you heard them correctly.

C) Thoughtless Listening: If you're preparing an answer while the other person is speaking, I hate to be the bearer of bad news...but you're not listening.

3. Speak from Intent: Explain why you are saying what you are saying. When you are speaking, tell your former partner the whole story, not just the surface level one. Explain why you feel that the kids should do ___________, or what you meant by saying _______.

4. Go to your happy place: It's really difficult to have a helpful conversation with someone when they are upset or are not in control of their emotions. If this is you then take a minute, gather your thoughts and emotions, and proceed. If you take a bit more time to decompress then it might be a good idea to tell your ex that you should not have the conversation now, and then set up a time to meet (or talk on the phone, email, etc.) when you both will be level-headed about the situation.

5. A clear parenting plan: One thing that can cause unnecessary confusion and heart-ache is the lack of a parenting plan. A parenting plan can help you decide who is making decisions around the children, where the children will be residing, what will the parenting schedule be like, what's going to happen on vacations, holidays, and special occasions, extra-curricular activities, and who is going to pay for what (and more). It keeps everyone on the same page so that everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it.

Jason Dykstra is in the business of helping people in conflict situations come to creative solutions that work for them. He specializes in relational conflict and is a trained family mediator. If you have any questions you can find him at his website www.absolutionmediation.ca , on Twitter: @jasondyk , Facebook or email: info@absolutionmediation.ca