Be the best parent you can be

“My 10-year-old daughter keeps telling me how wonderful her dad is, she sees him very occasionally (his choice and pays no maintenance), I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep quiet!”

This has to be amongst one of the most common statements I hear from separated parents in my work as a Relationship Therapist and Family Consultant.

In order to understand more about why this is so difficult, I always ask, “why does hearing about how much your daughter loves her Dad irritate or upset you so much?”

Before separation, as parents, we invest so much time and energy nurturing Mum and Dad relationships with our children. Creating ‘special’ bonds and encouraging time spent with each parent and as a family.

When a couple relationship ends, the ‘journey’ taken by the parents is very different to the ‘journey’ taken by the children.

Research tells us (and so do the children I work with) that a relationship with both parents, when it is safe to do so, is extremely important for children’s mental health.

My clients tell me about their feelings for their ex and how upset, frustrated and angry they feel when their child seems so happy after contact, and that sometimes it is difficult to keep quiet about that parent’s ‘uncooperative’ behaviour whether it concerns maintenance payments or lack of, and how little time they spend with their child.

It might seem the ‘right’ thing to tell your child of their parent’s misgivings but in actual fact this achieves nothing for your child and only moments of justification or moral high ground for you.

Remember that your child is in no position to make sense of or do anything with the information you have given them.

Ask yourself this, “how will telling my child help them to have a good relationship with my ex?”

Before you answer consider these points;

• Your child does not have the same relationship as you had with their mum/dad

• The only relationship that has ended is in fact your couple relationship, not your parental relationship

• It can be traumatic for everyone, including children, going through separation even if it is amicable, but there is life afterwards and a future

• Ask yourself, “what would I like my child to remember about this in 10-15 years’ time?”

• As parents we are responsible for our children, we can only control our ‘end’ of the conversation or behaviour shown to our children (and indeed our ex), so make it count or as good as it can be.

• Your child is watching and learning from you, teach them by your behaviour how to respect others even if you don’t get on, it’s a greatlife lesson.

• Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. How does it look from where they’re standing?

• Remember they love you both. Try to let them.

• Letting your child have a worry-free time with their mum or dad will help them to grow up with hopefully fewer mental or emotional health issues

Be the best parent you can be whilst they are with you. Get support from friends, family and professionals who specialise in separation and divorce when things get tough. Set rules with consequences and boundaries for emotional stability and look after yourself.

No matter how angry or upset you are with your ex, when your child has had a great time with them, take a deep breath and be delighted, for you have before you a HAPPY child.

The Importance of Listening

One of the most common features of working with divorcing couples, is that of discussing, finding out and encouraging the importance of good listening.

Often, we hear people say that they are good listeners and friends and relatives who might be supporting you through this difficult process, perhaps will offer you their ear whenever you might need to offload or discuss issues that have arisen.

Conversations with your ex concerning the house, finance and most importantly the children are inevitable at some point.

These conversations arise at a time when emotionally, we are not best placed to hear what needs to be said.

Divorce can often result from a breakdown in communication that has been building for some time, coupled with other relationship difficulties.

Below are some tips to consider when communicating with your ex:


  • How do you know when someone is listening to you?
  • How do you listen?
  • What are the optimum conditions for you to listen fully?
  • If you are upset, frustrated, or angry, your listening skills will be impaired.
  • If you find yourself thinking about something else or how you might respond whilst others are still talking, you have stopped listening fully
  • Try to keep your focus on what is being said
  • Ensure that the time is convenient for you both to talk. If one of you needs to get away then your focus will not be on the present situation.

Once the other person has stopped talking.


  • To make sure you have fully understood, e.g. “Ok so what I heard you say was……………”
  • It is not unusual to miss important points during ‘emotional’ conversations, especially with your ex.
  • Keep checking until you fully understand what has been said.     


  • Take a moment to reflect on what’s been said.
  • You might need more time, try not to feel pressured into making your reply immediately.
  • Rearrange another time, convenient to you both to continue the conversation if you need more time.

Once you have considered your response


Try to

  • Use ‘I’ Statements, e.g. “I think, I feel”
  • Consider your ex’s position, put yourself in their shoes.
  • Keep calm-it’s easy for things to escalate.
  • Consider your children’s needs.
  • Seek help if you are struggling. Consider a relationship therapist or mediator.
  • Check that your ex has understood, “can you please repeat back what you’ve heard?”

Some final points to consider:

What you’re going through is tough. You will at times feel very emotional and having a rational, calm conversation with your ex is probably the last thing you want to do.

Remember, no one can be made to do anything that they don’t want to, try to offer suggestions rather than make demands.

Control ‘your end’ of the conversation (AND the behaviour that goes with it) and be the best listener you can be, for the sake of your children.