Co-Parenting through Separation


When two individuals make the commitment to enter into a relationship, this sometimes includes the commitment to be parents. With this decision and the commitment made by each, begins a plan of a lifelong partnership. Unfortunately many relationships can change for the worst and the only solution is separation. Today we know many marriages and common law relationships also end in divorce or separation. Families change when relationships end. Everyone is affected.


 The impact of separation and divorce can feel like a whirlwind of chaos and distress. For some it can be seem as a relief to new beginnings. The impact can also cause short and long term emotional effects. For some the effects are more of anger, frustration, depression, and feelings of loss of identity.

How a Child Copes with Divorce is Often

Determined by How the Parent Copes

When there are children involved the impact of divorce for parents and the effects can seem to multiply. Not only are parents trying to understand and manage their own emotions, cope with the sudden changes, but they also have to manage all the fe
elings, emotions, reactions and understandings of their children. The outcome of this can play a large impact on how parents handle this change and how they in turn help their child. How a child copes with divorce is often determined by how the parent copes. As seen in many research, for those who are the primary parent (often mothers) there are compounding issues to managing not only the emotion and the stress, but also the financial needs. 

If you are the parent with a childhood of living through your parents separation, your views of being a parent is often influenced by what you were exposed to. Often we parent based on what we believe. Sometimes if our experiences were negative we parent against those negative influences and exposures.   A mother speaks about her parents separation during her childhood and how it impacts her parenting. 


Very often custodial parents struggle with resentment due to non-custodial parents being seen as “the Disneyland Dad,” where visits are more planned and enjoyable with outings to restaurants and the movies. The custodial parent is often the one seen as enforcing full fledged parenting duties such as doing homework. (Niel Katter “Growing Up with Divorce Helping Your Child Avoid Immediate and Later Emotional Problems)

There is a big emotional impact on children when their parents separate. However the impact does not have lead to long term negative effects. Often the emotional impact and the outcome of divorce on children are determined by how each parent helps the children to cope.


In the initial stage of separation children will often question and blame themselves with thoughts such as ‘Have I caused the divorce’, or ‘Who will take care of me.’   The emotional impact seen with children includes feelings of anger, depression, aggression towards siblings or school-mates and isolation. Academic difficulties are not uncommon.

The long term effect on children is also determined by how each parent treats and refers to the other parent or if the child is exposed to the ongoing conflict. In the case of conflict, one parent will sometimes attempt to alienate the child from the other parent. This is called ‘Parent Alienation’ and occurs when one parent speaks bad of the other parent to the child criticizing, gifts, the interaction and relationship with the child. This alienation causes a detrimental impact on the child’s emotional state and often has long term effects. By doing this behavior parents can “undermine the independent thinking skills of their children and cultivate an unhealthy dependency designed to satisfy the emotional needs of the adult.” (The Long- Term effect of Parental Alienation on Adult Children, Amy Baker 2006).

The impact of this change can also be determined by how much the parent involves the child. When a parent uses the child as their ally it can have a detrimental effect including anger and confusion. In many cases the child continues to feel responsible and can take on the role of parent.

There are Many New Routines that the Parent

Now Needs to Adapt to and Embrace

Divorce and separation impacts everyone involved.  It is important that each parent find healthy ways to cope and manage the changes. It is also important that each parent seek resources and support to help the child.   It is recommended that each parent seek services that will help them and their child learn to grow and cope with these changes. Services such as


It is imperative as the parent to understand the impact on your child; this will lessen the negative effects of your separation. It is evident in the communication between each parent and child.   Based on the age of your child, appropriate language is needed to explain to the child the decision and remind the child that they are loved by both parents.   If there is open communication and feelings of safety, the child will feel validated and that he or she matters. These feelings become the foundation for an emotionally healthy, developing child.

There are many new routines that the parent now needs to adapt to and embrace. For the benefit of your child introduce things slowly. It is important your child feels a sense of security and if possible have the same routine; for example, if Tuesday is movie night, keep that date. Allow your child to express his feelings about the situation. If they are angry about the other parent or disappointed, allow them to express their feelings, don’t criticize the other parent, but focus on your child and what his needs are in the situation.   When parents are able to communicate with each other or able to co-parent this positively benefits the child. The ability to co-parent it lessens the long term negative effects. If parents are able to communicate with each other and share the responsibility of parenting through their separation, it will create a strong positive parent child relationship. If there continues to be challenges seek the help of professional services and resources. is here to help.