TWO Parents. TWO places. Many possible problems.
The A-Z of day-to-day issues parents may face when children live in two households.
The A-Z topics discussed are for families where there is shared parenting [not necessarily equal time arrangements], where the parents are working together and want to minimise the challenges and conflicts that they [and their children] may face.
This information is not meant to cover the big ticket items – like who your child will live with or arrangements for spending time with your child. This is about the everyday issues that all parents deal with, but, when you are parenting children who live in two households, can become more of an issue.
In week one we looked at the first 8 topics from A to H, then we looked at topics I to Q, this is our last week and we will cover the final letters R to Z.
R – Respect. This is never an outdated topic, ensure you model it when speaking of the other parent. The children must also remember to speak respectfully of both parents and any partners they might have. If a child is being disrespectful it is going to be up to the parent hearing that to explain that it is unacceptable and offer alternative words or phrases to use if a child is feeling frustrated or angry about a situation.
S – School. Both parents should be in contact with the school directly and not relying on the other parent [or the children] to pass on information. Check with the school if they can ensure emails, reports, accounts are sent to both parents to avoid things slipping through the cracks. If one parent is emailing the school or teacher about a concern or issue about your child, it may be a good idea to copy the other parent in to keep them in the loop.
T – Transport arrangements and travel. As parents, are you happy for your children to be lifted by other parents? If so, which parents ? Do the children ride their bike, walk or catch the bus to school ? They might leave home from one parent’s house in the morning and go to the other parent’s house in the afternoon. How your children move around is something that needs to be considered and will change as the children get older and their activities change.
U – Ups and downs. Children have them, as do adults. Talk to the other parent when this is going on. A child may find it easier to talk with one parent about what they are feeling – if the issue is important that parent may then chat to the other parent about the matter. As children head into their teenage years hormones will start to play a bigger role in the children’s ups and downs; parents should be mindful not to take things personally.
V – Vitamins and medication. Children will need to be taking their vitamins and medication at both houses. This may mean keeping two lots of those items – one at each house. Alternatively, ensuring that any medicines or vitamins are passed between the parents at changeover, don’t leave this responsibility to younger children. It may also be helpful for each parent to have repeat prescriptions as opposed to running the risk of not having the medication.
W – WHO WHEN WHERE. “Whose house am I going to be at tonight ? When am I going there ? Where will my things be?” These are some of the most common questions. This is why an agreed arrangement about care of your child and good communication is important. Explain to your child what the arrangements are in an age appropriate way. It may be helpful use a calendar or wall chart, if the children have their own devices add it to their calendar or reminder. Children can become stressed and anxious when there is uncertainty – parents should work together to avoid to reduce that stress.
X – X-rated and age appropriate movies, gaming or online content. Parents should be discussing what their children will be allowed to watch or play – consider using the classifications as a guideline. A trigger for confusion and frustration is where children are able to watch movies or play games with a rating above their age at one house, but not the other. If parents have different views about what is appropriate, it can be explained to the children what the different rules are at the different houses.
Y – WHY. Make sure you and the other parent have discussed and can agree on what to explain to the children when they ask about the why of any BIG questions they may ask. Eg. WHY don’t we live with mommy /daddy any more; WHY did you have to marry someone else; WHY did you separate or divorce.
Z – zzzzzzz – sleep and bedtimes. With both younger and older children [albeit for different reasons], bedtimes and healthy sleep patterns are important. Keeping this constant across both households, as much as possible, should lead to happier children – and parents !
Consistency. Consideration. Communication. These are the keys to successful co-parenting.
Joelene Nel is a family lawyer and mediator at McLaughlins lawyers with more than 15 years experience helping parties resolve matters after separation. As a mother of two children, and after her divorce, she used these tips to co-parent with the children’s father.
If you are finding it difficult to reach agreement with the other parent about arrangements with your children, Joelene can act as a mediator and help parents reach agreement about family matters. You can call Joelene on (07) 5591 5099 to discuss your family law matter.
Author: Joelene Nel
Director: Sophie Pearson
Date: 26 October 2021