It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas but for some, after a stressful 2020, Christmas can be a time of sadness and frustration. So, what can separated families do to make Christmas a little easier on themselves and their children?
After a relationship breakdown, parenting children across separate households can seem daunting at first. There is no doubt that the optimal outcome, both for parents and children, is co-parenting, unless there are safety concerns to consider.
What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting is an arrangement where parents can communicate effectively and reach joint decisions in their children’s best interests.
While this may seem hard or even impossible at first, remaining respectful, staying child-focused and setting boundaries will lead the way to effective co-operation. It is about working as a team across two homes to ensure that children are as happy as possible.
Top five tips for effective co-parenting and communication
1. Be respectful
It can be difficult to put personal feelings aside and keep emotions at bay, however treating each other with respect (especially in front of the children) is a fundamental first step towards a successful co-parenting relationship.
Wherever possible, try not to criticise or blame the other parent and remember that little things can go a long way. In particular, speaking positively about your ex-partner around your children will make them feel safe and comfortable rather than ‘caught in the middle’. Be cautious as to what you say on social media too. Imagine a Judge reading your communication – how would you like to be perceived in that scenario?
2. Create a plan
Creating a plan is often the best way to work out what the arrangements will be for the children that are deemed acceptable to both parties. If you’re having trouble agreeing about what arrangements are best, attending mediation or getting legal advice can help.
Each family is different and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. For example, some parents prefer emails or text messages while others prefer communicating via technology to minimise contact. There are a variety of post-separation communication Apps that have different features suitable for each family (like calendar and document sharing), such as:
3. Be flexible
Being flexible is about accepting that things don’t always go to plan. There may be times you need to compromise, for example if one parent needs to travel unexpectedly.
Being flexible where possible also makes it easier to accommodate children’s changing needs. Avoid making demands for certain outcomes and instead, offer several options to reach a decision together.
4. Keep emails and texts clear and brief
After separation, it can take some time to find your feet in a separate household. To avoid miscommunication or misinterpretation, keep communication clear, brief and specific to ensure what is written is easy to follow.
Consider the medium for communication – if something needs to be dealt with quickly, a text could work better, or a call if it’s an emergency. Otherwise, stick to an agreed method of communication and give enough time for a response to be considered.
After separation, people are finding their feet in separate households. Whatever you write or say needs to be specific, clear and brief so there is no room for misinterpretation and it remains easy to follow. Think about what you want to say before putting it down. Multiple or long texts can lead to confusion or arguments. If something needs to be dealt with quickly, consider a text or call if it is an emergency. Otherwise, stick to the agreed method of communication and set out what decision needs to be reached and give enough notice for things to be thought over.
5. Update the other parent
Having a “update” style of communication about how time with the children has been, can be beneficial. You can report on activities or achievements, which allows the other parent to feel involved and have things to talk about with the children when they are back in their care.
Sending photos of particular events is also helpful. Give and ask for information that you expect to get as a parent in a timely manner.
If it goes wrong, get help early on
If you’ve tried all the above tips but have difficulties communicating with the other parent after separation, you may need to consider other options.
We can assist you through the process of separation and to come to an agreeable position on co-parenting. Contact our friendly family law team today to get started.