After the breakdown of a relationship, the prospect of sharing the care of your children can be extremely stressful on both you and your ex-partner, but if managed incorrectly, it can be even more traumatic for the children involved.
Parents who are separating or divorcing can already cause internal conflict for a child, not to mention the disruption of splitting their lives between two households. As experienced family lawyers, we have compiled the below suggestions on how you and your ex-partner should conduct yourselves so that your children’s lives are left as uninterrupted as possible.
Be mindful of how you speak about your ex
If you feel the need to speak poorly about your ex-partner, refrain from doing it in front of your children and save your feelings for your friends or therapist.
Not only does speaking badly about your ex to your shared children create a negative and hostile environment, but it is also setting them up to believe that relationships must end with individuals hating their ex-partner. Depending on what you say to or in front of your child/ren it can also inadvertently be asking them to make a choice between the two parents. Although it may be difficult, just remain neutral and say nothing at all.
All children require consistency regardless of their living arrangements; therefore, bedtime, mealtimes and other scheduled activities should remain similar during stays with either parent.
Set the guidelines upfront and agree to put your differences aside for the sake of keeping the lives of your child/ren as normal as possible.
Inconsistent schedules aren’t just hard for a child to keep to, they will also subconsciously begin to believe that their needs are secondary to those of the parents and they will begin to wonder where they stand with you.
Don’t try to be the ‘fun’ parent
Children need, and deserve, steady and reliable role models. By trying to seem like the parent who doesn’t set rules and always has an out-of-the-ordinary activity planned, the time they spend with their other parent won’t make you seem more outgoing, it will simply set a pattern of inconsistency. Children need to have quiet and ‘boring’ times with both parents to create a sense of normality.
Keep your own personal schedule and commitments
Although the needs of the child generally do come first, you should not overcompensate in lieu of your own personal life.
Once you have settled into your new schedule, stick to it. It is important that you are taking time to exercise, socialise, meditate or whatever it is that keeps you feeling your best to ensure that you are not losing your own persona in your new circumstances.
Where appropriate, keep your ex-partner informed of your schedule, particularly where the children are involved or in cases where you might be unreachable. Relying on the children passing on details about outings or activities will mean they are always passing on second-hand information and feeling as though they need to take on a new sense of responsibility that they aren’t quite ready for.
Prepare a formal agreement
As the needs and interests of your shared child/ren are the priority of both you and your ex-partner you should prepare a formal agreement with regard to the most important aspects of your child/ren’s lives.
If you do not believe that you and your ex-partner can agree on a formal agreement as to certain aspects of the child/ren’s lives you should both put your thoughts down on paper and have your respective solicitors find common ground and negotiate the rest of the elements of the agreement.
If you require assistance with any aspect of shared care, you should seek the advice of a family lawyer who is experienced in this field.
Cairns Divorce Lawyers is the family law division of Preston Law.