Co-Parenting during the holidays and beyond

Co-parenting during the holidays and beyond? It only feels like 5 minutes since Christmas, and what with Pancake Day already out of the way, we’re on the countdown to Easter. Perhaps it  feels a bit too soon (at least for your credit card anyway), but by Thursday the 24th March, your children will be on Easter break.

If you’ve been separated or divorced for a while, you might already have established a good co-parenting routine. If you haven’t, or you’re newly separated, the thought of the holidays could be filling you with dread. It might be that you’re hoping that you can see your children over the holidays, perhaps take them away. It might be that you’re hoping that your children’s other parent will help with childcare or the cost of activities and clubs for the children whilst you work or give them a holiday treat.

With just 2 full weeks left until the break, have you already got yourselves organised, and if not, what can you do now to get your co-parenting resolved smoothly?

It’s always about the children

When separated parents talk about their children, it’s common to hear phrases like ‘my children’ as opposed to ‘our children’. Its also common to hear them talk about their ‘parental rights’.  As a parent with Parental Responsibility, you do indeed have rights. Remember too though, that you have duties and responsibilities. Under English Law, the definition of Parental Responsibility can be found in s3 Children Act 1989 which describes it as:

Parental responsibility means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child and the child’s property.

Your duties and responsibilities include ensuring that their best interests are served in your parenting. When looking at how and when children will spend time with separated parents, the court will always express such arrangements as the children’s time with mum or dad rather than mum or dad having time with the children. This is because the focus will always be on what is best for the children rather than what is best for you.

So why do you need to know this and how will this help?

It’s important to understand this because arrangements should never be primarily about you. Now that’s not to say that your work routines and personal life can’t and wont be taken into consideration because they will, but the starting point is always the children.

key to co-parenting is communication

Never make assumptions

Making assumptions about what your child’s other parent is thinking, has planned or will accept, is a recipe for disaster. What may seem perfectly obvious to you, may not be for the other parent. If the assumptions you make involve spending money, be especially careful as it could also cost you money. Booking a holiday without speaking to your child’s other parent, with the thought that if you book and pay for it and tell your children about it, the other parent ‘will have to let them go’ isn’t smart. It’s manipulative and may lead to huge disappointment for your children.

Communicate

This may seem obvious but the key to co-parenting is communication. Sending texts demanding things, or stating matters as fact is not communication. Communication is about dialogue. Text messages are often not the best form of communication. Communication is made up of words, tonality and body language. Without all 3, something is always lost in translation. When we are in a poor emotional state, be that tired, upset or frustrated, the way we send out communication, or receive it, isn’t usually at it’s best. How often have you sent a quick message because you were tired and ‘not in the mood’, only for it to be misunderstood by the recipient? How often have you received a text when you were feel upset and angry and you’ve immediately read the worst into it? Yes, it is easily done. So, when you  genuinely have a desire to be heard and understood, arrange to chat with your co-parent in person if its possible and safe. Use the telephone as the next best option. Consider not using texting until you’ve built up understanding and trust.

Say thank you

Saying thank you is one of the easiest things we can do to build rapport. Even if it is your turn to have the children overnight or for a holiday, thanking their other parent honours and recognises that you appreciate that they will miss the children whilst they are with you. Will it be appreciated? Yes it’s likely it will be even if that isn’t expressed immediately because of anger and frustration. Keep doing it anyway!

Remember you are still a team

When you’re a co-parent, you are still a team. You are just parenting in two individual households. All the decisions that you made as a couple still need to be made together when they impact your children at more than a day to day level. Co-parenting isn’t about permission seeking, its about respect. It doesn’t mean that you cant have separate rules about behaviour or bed times in different homes, it means that you will at least consider the other parent’s point of view and their rationale before you go against it.

There will be times when you and your children’s other parent just can’t agree. This is just the same as it would have been in your relationship so keep perspective. Either you’ll compromise, or  one of you will be disappointed but that would’ve happened if you were still in a relationship, so pick your battles.

As Easter approaches, make plans to discuss with your co-parent how the children will spend their time and what time they’ll spend with each of you. Consider drawing up a Parenting Plan so that the both of you and the children (where appropriate)) know and understand the arrangements that you have made. Having a plan makes it easier for everyone to move forward. When you feel upset are annoyed, you can just follow the plan. You can find out more about Parent Plans on the Cafcass website.

My name is Emma. I’m a Family Mediator with Crombie Wilkinson-Your Family First. You can call me on 01904 697760, email me at mediator@yourfamilyfirst.co.uk or visit our website at www.yourfamilyfirst.co.uk