6 tips from separated parents

6 tips from separated parents
How do you stay good parents even after a separation? Parents share their advice.

How do you stay good parents even after a separation? Parents share their advice.

1. Communicate

“We text regularly to keep each other up to speed on important events in our daughter’s life. For instance, I might send my ex a picture of Sandrine because she just lost her first tooth. During changeovers, we also update each other on different topics. If I need to check something, I do it right away—I don’t let things pile up.”
- Anne-Marie Loiselle, separated for two years, mother of seven-year-old Sandrine

Some parents also keep a kind of custody journal. “A journal is a good idea,” says psychologist and family mediator Harry Timmermans. “But sometimes, when the situation is complex, writing doesn’t cut it.” Ideally, when parents are worried about their child, they should talk about the issue in person.

2. Be respectful when talking about your ex

“My ex-wife left me for someone else. Although I was frustrated at first, I never badmouthed her. I know how important she is to my kids. My parents separated when I was 11, and they weren’t on good terms. It was super stressful for me, and I didn’t want my kids to go through that. With me, no topics are off-limits. My kids can talk to me about their mother, her boyfriend, and what they do together—they know it won’t bother me.”
- Blaise Bélanger, separated for three years, father of five-year-old Olivia and three-and-a-half-year-old Benjamin

“It’s essential to always be respectful when talking about the other parent,” says Lorraine Filion. “If parents feel hurt or angry, they should talk to a friend, support group, or professional, not their child.” Children should also feel that it’s okay for them to like their parent’s new partner.

3. Ask for help

“We went to family mediation to settle the details of our separation. It allowed us to listen to each other and talk without shouting. But for mediation to work, you have to have good intentions. For us, our children’s well-being was the key. We decided to stay friends for them.”
- Steve Gollain, separated for three years, father of seven-year-old Coralie and ten-year-old Mathys

Family mediation can be very useful in helping parents decide on custody arrangements, clarify their roles after the breakup, and establish their responsibilities. “The sooner you go, the better,” says Timmermans. “It’s easier to come to an agreement when you haven’t let years of tension build up.”

4. Work as a team

 “All the money we receive from the government for our children goes into a joint account. We use it to pay for things like child care and school expenses. We go to school meetings together. And if I have to take one of our kids to the emergency room when they’re with me, I leave my other boy with his dad. We’re still full-time parents, and we help each other.”
- Catherine Langis, separated for two years, mother of four-year-old Ludovic and six-year-old Guillaume

“Parents can also decide in advance who will go to which appointments (e.g., doctor, dentist, daycare),” says social worker and family mediator Lorraine Filion. “The parent who goes to the appointment, however, should report back to the other one by email or phone.” This is important because decisions sometimes have to be made about medications, treatments, or interventions.

5. Stay in contact without invading the other’s privacy

“FaceTime lets me keep in touch with my daughter when she’s with her dad. If Kelly starts to miss me at bedtime, her dad sends me a text to see if we can video chat, and I always say yes! It takes two seconds, and it reassures my daughter. But we respect each other’s private lives, and we wait for Kelly to ask.”
- Tanya Crépeau, separated for three years, mother of four-and-a-half-year-old Kelly

“You and the other parent can agree ahead of time that you’ll call at seven o’clock to say good night, for example,” says Filion. However, make sure your child doesn’t stretch out bedtime by constantly asking for the other parent. Children can also keep a picture of their parents in both of their bedrooms. Some also bring an article of clothing with them that smells like their mom or dad, like a sweater, to help them get to sleep.

6. Accept that the other parent will do things differently

“At first, my ex-wife was upset that I had less of an eye for fashion. I don’t think it’s important for our daughter to be dressed to the nines. Now, we each have our own set of clothes for Victoria. Even if we don’t do everything the same way, the main thing is that our daughter is healthy and happy to stay with either parent.”
- Marc-André Balmir, separated for two years, father of three-year-old Victoria

“Parents are two different people even when they live together,” says Harry Timmermans. “Children are better off for their parents’ differences, and they’re capable of adapting to different ways of doing things.”


Separation: By the numbers
Parental separation is common in Quebec. Let’s take a closer look.

In Quebec, four in ten families undergo a separation. “More and more people are separating, and having children doesn’t prevent couples from splitting up,” says Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques, a professor at the School of Social Work and Criminology at Laval University. Saint-Jacques notes that parents are also separating earlier on, which is to say, when their children are young.

For instance, by age six, 22 percent of children born in 1997–1998 in an intact family saw their parents separate, according to an analysis conducted by the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ) using data from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD).

Even though shared custody is increasingly common, most children live under a different arrangement. “Based on the statistics, children tend to spend more time with their mother,” says Saint-Jacques. According to the same ISQ study, at the time of their parents’ separation, 40 percent of the children were living under shared custody, while 53 percent lived only with their mother. Among those, 35 percent saw their father on a regular basis (every month, every week, or every other week).


Maxim Morin (above)
Nicolas St-Germain (center)


Naître et grandir

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, November 2018
Research and copywriting: Julie Leduc
Scientific review: François St-Père, psychologist and family mediator