Don't forget you are the adult.
Recently I witnessed an event that made me sick to the stomach, and it reminded me that it is so easy to get caught up in the moment. To be focused on the point and issue at hand that we can forget the bigger picture.
What was the event? It was a changeover between two women. One was the mother (and I knew this because of what she was yelling), the other lady, I am not sure of her relationship, but that isn't important in this scenario. Why? Also present were two children, one who looked around 4 and the other around 7 or 8.
These children were standing there whilst the two ladies were arguing. One was accusing the other of telling the children to lie, the other defending that it didn't happen. One was asking the youngest child directly, the other questioning why this was happening.
The situation was so heated that it made me and other's around me uncomfortable, and we are adults. How would the children feel in this position?
It occurred to me that this is often a source of concern for parents. That is, one parent feels like their children have been placed in a bad situation by another, and they want to protect them. They don't want this to happen to them again. But let me ask you this. How is confronting the other person in the presence of the children going to make the situation any better? It won't. If anything, it will only increase the impact that it has on the children.
As parents, we are there to protect our children. We can't stop every bad thing from happening, but we can be their place of solace when they need it. If they think or feel that you will react this way - are they likely to tell you things in the future when it is bothering them? Probably not, because they will feel so much worse.
When you feel that there are issues that need addressing - there are ways to do this.
For example, you could try the following:
- Ask the other parent to meet so you can discuss issues. Sitting down and having a conversation is an excellent option if you can have a civilised conversation when you can share your point of view without ending up in a heated argument.
- Write it down in a text, email or through a communication app if necessary. Remember that you can't take back something you have put down in writing, so be mindful of how you put your concerns across.
- Organise a mediation. Mediation doesn't have to cover everything, you can have mediation for discreet issues, and it can be a great tool to use to catch up on a six-monthly or annual basis to make sure that you are both on the same page still.
To be clear, raising the issues in the presence of the children at changeover is not one.
Remember, you are the adults, and as difficult as it can sometimes be, you need to bite your tongue and walk away. Our children do not need to be witness to any ongoing conflict. You might not like the other person (whether it be an ex or their new partner), but your children still have to go there and spend time with them. Don't make this any more difficult for them.