Managing conflict after separation

Having separated parents doesn’t harm children – it’s the conflict that often goes with separation that can do the damage. Reducing that conflict can help everybody involved, and most importantly your child.

The main causes of conflict

There are several areas that most commonly cause conflict between separated and separating parents:

Money – You’ve probably both got less of it now you’ve separated, which can be really stressful.

Time with your child – Some parents can be tempted to use this as a bargaining tool.

Decision making – It can be frustrating for the other parent if you make decisions about your child without involving them.

Parenting styles and values – If you have differing views of how to raise your child it can cause tension and arguments.

New relationships – You or your child’s other parent might have found a new partner, which may take a while for everyone to get used to.

Avoiding conflict

When it comes to conflict, the people who lose out the most are children. And no-one wants that to happen. So it’s really important that you both do your best to avoid conflict as much as you can. You can start by doing the following:

1. Deal with your emotions

Dealing with any hurt, anger, guilt or other emotions you might be feeling is the first step towards working together with your child’s other parent.

You don’t need to forgive and forget, but your child may need you to accept what happened in the past so that you can both be good parents in the future.

If you need help with this, see Dealing with your emotions.

2. Focus on your child

Concentrate on what’s best for your child rather than getting caught up in your ‘rights’ as a parent. Unless your child is at risk of harm, try not to interfere with their other parent’s values or parenting style during their time together.

For more about working together with your child’s other parent, see Co-parenting after separation

3. Admit when you’re wrong

It’s hard to do, but the other parent should have more respect for you if you’re prepared to admit when you’re wrong.

4. Be clear about what you’ve agreed

Misunderstandings almost always lead to conflict so make you’re both clear about what needs to happen and when.

5. Be prepared to compromise

Compromise involves a little bit of give and take on both sides. If you can both do this, you’re more likely to make arrangements that work for your family.

For more ideas on how to reach compromise, see Talking about child maintenance.

Help managing conflict

If you’re still struggling to deal with conflict by yourself, think about getting someone to act as a “mediator” during conversations with your child’s other parent. This could be a friend or relative, or a professional mediator or family lawyer.

Find out more about mediation