Co-parenting school holidays successfully
With many thanks to Yasmin Georgievska (Family Law Associate) at Access Law Group, for her input into this article.
Separation is an incredibly difficult and emotional time for all family members. Preparing your child or children (and yourself! for the upcoming holiday period takes some planning.
So here is some expert, helpful and compassionate advice from the highly experienced Wollongong Family Lawyers – ALG (Access Law Group).
Holidays can be a difficult time for children of families who have experienced a separation. For some, this period may be their first time having to share the holiday season with more than one parent. A child’s emotions may be heightened during this time, and it is essential to ensure they are emotionally supported in every way possible.
Ideally, set aside some time before holdings to review the agreement you have in place. You can consider formalising your parenting agreement through Consent Orders or a Parenting Plan. For further information click here to read our article ‘Parenting Plans vs Consent Orders.’
If you find yourself in a situation where a parenting plan or Court Orders are breached, you should seek legal advice immediately.
If there is no agreement in place, click to contact the team at Access Law Group for advice and to get started now.
The following tips will assist you in keeping the holiday spirit and prioritising your children at this busy time.
Tip 1: Respectful communication with the other parent: In order to effectively co-parent, parent’s should strive to have open and respectful communication with one another, for the sake of the children and their wellbeing. Children become stressed and anxious if they witness their parents arguing. So avoid confrontation in front of the children at all costs. Ensure communication is kept between you and the other parent only and that the children are not used as messengers. If you and the other party are unable to communicate over the phone, try texting, emailing, or using communication apps, such as My Family Wizard.
Tip 2: Have a Plan in writing: Ensure you and the other parent have a plan regarding how the children’s time will be split between households. The plan should be agreed prior to the school holidays, and you should consider formalising your agreement by way of a parenting plan or Consent Orders. For further information click here to read our article ‘Parenting Plans vs Consent Orders.’
Tip 3: Communicate the agreed arrangements with your children: Once you and the other parent have an agreement in place, ensure the children are informed of the agreement. This will minimise their stress, anxiety and worry over the school holidays. To assist your family, mark up a calendar that’s displayed in an accessible location of the house, such as the kitchen. This will give the children comfort in knowing where they will be over the break. A routine your children can rely on reminds them that they can count on you and the other parent to provide stability, structure and care, even if their world feels as though its turned upside down.
Tip 4: Be flexible: Things don’t always go to plan. If the other parent is running late, or the children become sick, be flexible where necessary if this is in the children’s best interests. Where a child is sick, it is often not in their interests to pull them out of bed and put them in the car to send to the other parent’s house. Both parents need to be understanding and flexible to change the arrangements.
Tip 5: Help your child grieve: Be Compassionate, Caring and Patient: Your children may feel upset, frustrated, angry and an intense sense of loss at your separation with the other parent. Listen to your children and encourage them to share their feelings. Tell your children “I love you’ and answer questions they may have in a child friendly way. Your children may start acting out or close up completely. Let them know you are there to listen to them and encourage them to speak to a professional to assist them to safely navigate their feelings. Ensure they know that the separation is not their fault as children can blame themselves.
Tip 6: Encourage your children’s relationship with the other parent: It is important to encourage the children to have a positive relationship with the other parent, where it is safe. Under s60cc of the Family Law Act (Cth), it is legislated that it is in the child’s best interest to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Children often have a primary attachment to one parent, and it is important that where children express they do not want to go to the other parents place, the parent explains to the children how much the other parent loves them and how they will have so much fun when they get to the other parent’s house. More often than not, once the child is at the other parent’s house, they have a great time.
Tip 7: Avoid blaming or speaking derogatory about the other parent: This is a trap many recently separated parent’s fall into, especially where there has been hurtful incidents, such as infidelity. It harms the children to hear their parents speaking horribly about the other parent, and it can harm their relationship with you or their other parent. Ensure the children are not present or in hearing range when you are on the phone to family and friends supporting you through your separation. If other people start speaking derogatorily about your ex-partner and the children are around, politely ask them to stop and that you will have the discussion in a more suitable environment at another time.
Tip 8: Have fun with your children: Make new happy memories with your children. Plan fun activities that interest your children while they are with you. Shifting your children’s focus from the divorce to fun activities will support them (and you) emotionally through the tough times.
Keep in mind that the best interests of your children are paramount.
If you want further support, please contact Access Law Group for their trusted and expert advice on 02 4220 7100 or email [email protected]