The A-Z of Post Separation Parenting Tips
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.
Recently we looked at the first 8 topics from A to H, this week we will look at topics from I to Q.
I – iPhones and other devices. There is so much information out there about cyber safety and technology usage for children – what age to start, how long should they use it each day, what programmes or apps to use. Parents should be talking to each other before devices are purchased for the children and setting boundaries around usage, from the outset, across both households is going to be very helpful. Consider having a Screentime Agreement for each child to sign.
J – Juggling. No matter how well organised parents are, or how many lists, reminders and planners there are – things do fall through the cracks and get forgotten about. Parents need to juggle. Whilst it is easy to be frustrated and annoyed at yourself, the children, the other parent – resist this and rather focus on an answer. What arrangements do you need to put in place to collect the forgotten sport uniform, misplaced music instrument or homework book ? Parents must try and work together to reduce the stress on children in these situations. If you don’t already have, then try and put some checks and balances in place to ensure the forgotten items are few and far between.
K – Keys to the house. Do the children need keys to get into the house after school and are the children responsible enough to have them ? Even though it might only apply to one parent’s house, it is a matter that the other parent should be aware of. Having keys can be a big responsibility to children, and if they loose or misplace them it can cause much stress.
L – Limits. Children love to push them ! Try to be as consistent as possible across both households and where there are differences explain to the children sometimes different houses have different rules. This can apply to curfews, sweets and treats and use of technology to name a few.
M – Medical matters. Both parents should be aware of any serious or ongoing medical or health needs of their children and keep appropriate medicine. In respect of day-to-day health issues – the sore tummy, the growing pains, headaches – these can be mentioned to the other parent especially if they happen just before a changeover. Even if your children are fine when they go to spend time with the other parent, it would still be worth mentioning if there has been something going on health wise as it may come back again.
N – Never put your child in the middle of needing to make a decision that the parents should make. When do you want to stay out until ? Whose house do you want to be at for Christmas? Parents should be able to discuss these matters, well before they arise and provide the children with a united front about the answers to these questions. Whilst getting input from the children may sometimes be appropriate – letting children be the final decision makers about big issues is seldom a good idea.
O – Overnight visits aka sleepovers. Each child will approach this differently, when they are comfortable with this and whose house they are comfortable to sleep at. Children may prefer a friend to sleep over at their house as opposed to them sleeping out. Some children may prefer to have sleepovers at one parent’s house rather than the other [perhaps the house they have certain toys or pets at]. Parents should be able to comfortably communicate with each other about how their children are coping and what is working best. If a child has a bad experience at a certain friend’s house this should also be discussed.
P – Pocket money. There comes an age where children want ‘their own’ money. Speaking to children about being financially responsible and how money works [the machine in the wall does not just give out endless cash!] Parents should be able to talk about if their children are going to get pocket money, and if so, at what age, how often and how much. What will that money be used for and how will the pocket money be paid – cash or into a bank account ? Teaching children to be financially aware is a life lesson that parents should be teaching children.
Q – Questions and communication. Encourage your children to ask them and ensure that parents are able to answer them honestly and age appropriately. Likewise ensure you are both asking the children questions about how things are going, at school, at home, with their friends. As children get older they may be able to express frustrations they have with some aspects of living in two homes. It might be something that can be fixed by the parents eg. a child having a double bed at one house and wanting to have one at the other house but being uncertain how to raise this without upsetting that parent. Keep the lines of questions and communication open to continue to ensure that the children are able to transition as seamlessly as possible between the homes.
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.
Keep an eye out for our next blog featuring further tips for Post Separation Parenting.
Author: Joelene Nel
Director: Sophie Pearson
Date: 10 September 2021