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Help: Making decisions now
Thinking about child arrangements during the lockdown Courtesy of Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).This article is separated into two sections. The first section gives a summary of the Court’s Guidance and the second section gives you 7 steps to help you decide how to make the best arrangements with your ex – or other carer – during the pandemic. Section 2 also includes a table, which you can fill out to help your thinking. It provides you with practical tools to make decisions that will help your family get on the same page about the Coronavirus restrictions. Section 1: The Court’s Guidance   Cafcass has received queries from parents seeking advice about how best to make child arrangements when there are also Covid-19 infection concerns about the child, parent or other family members. The President of the Family Division (who is the leading Family Judge for England and Wales) has issued guidance, which you can read here. We've also written a short glossary of terms, which helps explain some of the legal language used in the Court Guidance. The guidance sets out that: It is the parents who have parental responsibility, not the court That the Government rules on staying at home and away from others are very significant and that we are facing a public health crisis on a scale that has not happened in recent memory That the guidance does allow for children to move between their parent’s homes, but this is a ‘can move’ not a ‘must move’ Decisions about this are for the parents to make, with the following guidance: Parents should assess the child’s health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in either household Parents should communicate to work out a good practical solution Parents can agree a variation to an order, and it would be good to have a written note of the agreement, that is shared Where parents cannot agree, they should be reasonable and sensible in forming their individual opinion looking at all the factors There are alternative arrangements for contact vis the internet which should be considered Parents should think about the spirit of the court order – what the order intended to achieve in the longer term, rather than the letter of the order At Cafcass – where our Social Workers have been helping parents with child arrangements dilemmas for many years – we recognise that the current circumstances are particularly difficult for parents and children, both have new and some serious concerns about day to day life and the future. Living arrangements and relationships may have changed and may be under strain in all sorts of ways. We know also that it is harder to get help at the moment.That is why we have put as much help as we can, online, and this is available in one starting place.This includes online guides for making a Parenting Plan for yourselves , and other sources of help. It also includes advice about where to seek help if you think that Domestic Abuse or Coercion are issues for you . The guidance below is not intended for parents where there are issues of abuse and control.One of the ways in which you can get help at the moment is through Mediation Services – many are offering online meetings for both parents, and they are already getting experience in helping people make and adapt arrangements for the new situation. You can read more about this on the CPH. The costs of Mediation are supported by Legal Aid, and you may qualify for this financial help. We have had queries about the following types of situations: Where one parent is a key worker, and the house cannot therefore be isolated Where one household is not isolated because other children are moving between their parents Where one parent is a health worker and the risk of the virus coming into the home is therefore greater Where a partner has been or is being abusive and putting on unreasonable pressure Where one parent is concerned about their health for good reason even where this does not meet the Governments list of serious conditions Where the virus is used as an unreasonable excuse for stopping contact – the stopping of contact does not have any additional reasons behind it. Cafcass cannot decide about individual cases, and we know that access to a Judge in court is very limited at the moment.  Section 2: Steps that may help you make decisions about Coronavirus arrangements with your ex/other carer: Rather than comment on particular scenarios, we are offering the following suggestions for how to get to a ‘reasonable and sensible’ decision as set out by the President of the Family Division. We know that ‘reasonable and sensible’ can be quite hard to agree for separating families. In our view it means taking into account all the things that might affect the child, either in favour of or against a particular arrangement, and in this case thinking also about the safety of others. It also means thinking about some of the alternatives that could be put in place, and recognising that these need only be temporary arrangements, that can be reviewed in the future.The President of the Family Division is keen also that you think about the spirit of the court order – not the letter. For us, this means thinking about what the order is trying to achieve long term, not the precise balance of the arrangements week by week. Seven steps to reaching a workable arrangement during the pandemic: Step 1: Consider your own emotional needs, your worries about the future, and whether you need to do some thinking about how to stay calm so that you can focus on the child’s needs. You may want to set this as a goal, which can show you related content. Step 2: Think about how you communicate with your former partner and that you have a way to listen to each other’s concerns if you can, and that you will be ready to share your reasoning about what needs to happen. If there is abuse or coercion (feeling forced or obliged to do things) you should seek help elsewhere. Step 3: Think about your child’s needs. What is the spirit of the child arrangements order trying to achieve? Listen to your child’s views and concerns – there is help about how to do this here . Your child might have concerns both about missing out on time with a parent, and about increasing health risks for members of the family – it could be a serious burden for a child if they thought they had been part of bringing an illness into a house.Step 4: Think about who is placed at risk of contracting the virus from the child moving between houses, and how serious this might be for them. How much does the child moving between homes increase that risk – are there already lots of other risks which you don’t have control over, and the child moving does not add much to these? Have you got concerns about a child not being properly shielded? What are the risks if the child arrangement does not take place as ordered?Step 5: What might be available to reduce the risks? Is there an indirect contact method which could keep the spirit of the order alive while not increasing the risks. Many people are using secure online video meetings to keep in touch with vulnerable friends, relatives, and grandchildren. Might this work for the time being in your situation? Might having contact more often make up for having less contact overall? Might online sessions be a way to help share the burden of – and participate in – schoolwork? Might online sessions that include Grandparents be a way of enriching the experience for all? Does a reduced frequency of contact reduce the risks? Can arrangements be agreed which improve the shielding of your child?Step 6: Both parents should communicate about their issue and concerns and take care to listen to the other parent and the child’s views. A temporary agreement could be written down. You could agree to seek help from a Mediator if you need some help to explore the issues further.Step 7: Don’t forget that you can review and change your views about any step, and it can be helpful to go over each step more than once. Don’t forget also that this arrangement is only for now and can change and improve over time. Don’t forget also that if you listen to your child and make an arrangement which respects their wishes and meets their needs, you will get a lot of credit from your child – they know it is difficult. The table below might be a good tool to work through with the other parent or carer, so you both have a record of what has been agreed to refer back to: Stage Things to think about Notes and agreement Me What helps me to stay calm and focus on our child?   Communication What communication do we have and what do we need to make a new arrangement?   Our Child’s needs What is the spirit of our Child Arrangement Order? What are our child’s views and needs?   The risks Who is at risk, in what ways?   Our options for managing the risks What are our options? What can we test out? What might be the best way forward?   Our Agreement What might our best available agreement look like? When should we review it? Do we need some help to make the agreement stronger?  
Article | Covid-19
Advice: remote working tips
Remote Working Tips There are several advantages to remote working, including an improved work life balance, saving time from not commuting and saving money. However, there are also a few challenges including finding it harder to switch off properly at the end of the day, facing more distractions and potentially communicating less frequently with colleagues. Hopefully these tips will help to improve your remote working experience: Create a Routine Whilst it can be very tempting to open your eyes, get your laptop or phone and start working from the comfort of your bed, in the long run this can ruin your relationship with sleep and stop your bedroom from feeling like a relaxing environment. Treat your day like any other workday. Take a shower, get dressed and have breakfast – this helps you get in the right frame of mind to work. Once you’re ready, create a list of everything you need to do for the day, divide your day into equal blocks of time. Plot your jobs onto your day. Place the jobs that need the most focus at the times of the day you know you work best. Schedule in when you will take short breaks and a longer break for lunch. If you have a table or desk, try to work from there and save the sofa for relaxing. When you’re in one space it is important that you feel rested rather than associating your whole living environment with work. Think about how you can spend the time you would typically use to commute. If you regularly wake up feeling tired, catch up on some extra sleep, but equally don’t just sleep in because you can. This is also a great time to get working or exercising for example. Maintain Regular Communication During periods of isolation and remote working, maintaining regular communication with colleagues can be the difference between remote working being filled with unknowns and it being a huge success. To do this: Clarify expectations. Perhaps have a conversation with your manager about how much communication they want from you and what details they’d like you to share. Embrace technology. Instant messaging is good, but some messages are best delivered face to face, so consider using video calls. Schedule in time during your workday for a call with colleagues for an update and a chat or hold regular virtual team meetings. Consider optional Q&A sessions for your team to dial in and chat through any concerns or queries they have about working remotely. If you typically schedule time in the workday for an activity or exercising with your colleagues, continue to make time for this over Skype or phone. For example: Turning your morning or afternoon coffee break into a virtual coffee break; Sharing photo updates of your lunchtime exercise session; Video calling for an afternoon creative session; Organising a daily online quiz session. Use instant messenger to communicate with your colleagues if you are feeling lonely, out of the loop or need to talk to someone. If you’re going online more than usual or seeking peer support on the internet, it’s important to look after your online wellbeing. Take a look at these pages about online mental health for more information. Create an end of day routine It can be hard to switch off properly at the end of the day when your workspace is also your home, so an end of day routine can help. Review everything you have achieved throughout your day. Create a ‘have done’ list of achievements and completed tasks as well as a ‘to do’ list for the following day. Put a plan in place for how you’ll get any outstanding jobs finished. Make sure they are in tomorrow’s to do list if needed. Check your calendar to make sure you don’t get surprised by any upcoming events. End your day by turning off your laptop and your work phone. Leave these in a separate room so you’re not tempted to check your emails outside of working hours. Consider how you can spend the time you would typically spend commuting home, again this is a great time for extra movement, calling friends and family or preparing dinner.  Remove distractions Working from home can mean distractions are more difficult to resist. It can be helpful to: Have a designated workspace within your home. This is an area of your house you set apart for productivity and work. If you’re working within a small space, you could try setting up temporary ‘zones’ by hanging blankets or screens to visually separate your work area from your bed or living area. Keep your workspace free of clutter. This will help you to focus. Set expectations with the people you live with. Let them know when you can and cannot be distracted. Schedule in regular breaks. This will help you to maintain focus. The Pomodoro technique can help with this. Consider downloading a distraction blocker if you often find yourself browsing unrelated websites. If music helps you focus, play it in the background. Whereas if quiet helps you focus, find somewhere to work that’s low on noise. Consider blocking in some offline time to help remove distractions when you need to focus.  Consider your physical health Consider using the time you would typically use to commute to exercise: exercising before work can help you feel like you have mentally ‘arrived’ at work. Doing the same when you’ve finished can help you to leave your work mindset behind and switch off. Remember to schedule in a lunch break and consider using this time to get outdoors or do some form of exercise. To avoid physical strain, do a self-check using this guidance from the NHS. If you don’t have a chair with back support, you could add a firm pillow. If you notice that you’ve been sitting down for an hour, just getting up or changing position can help. Drink water regularly, this is important for your physical and mental health. It might be helpful to set an alarm to remind you to drink. The NHS website has more information on water, drinks and your health here.
Article | Covid-19
Advice: reducing stress about coronavirus
Dealing with the stress of Coronavirus Since the outbreak was first reported, there has been - understandably - some panic about Coronavirus. Health epidemics such as these can potentially cause an increased feeling of anxiety, especially for people who already struggle with anxiety disorders. The constant coverage in the media and other outlets can lead to increased fear.Here are some suggestions that could help you during this time: Talk to someone you trust Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show you that they care can help. Try to manage your worries It can be hard to stop worrying when you have anxiety. If you fear that you have, or might get Coronavirus, set aside some time to challenge your thoughts and reassure yourself. As yourself: Do I have evidence? Am I at risk? Am I feeling ill? Have I been in contact with anyone who has tested positive? Have some perspective: Though we should not underestimate the effects of the virus, following government guidelines around social distancing is helping to reduce the number of cases in the UK. Look after your physical health: Try to get enough sleep as it can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. Think about your diet and try to eat regularly to keep your blood sugar stable, as this can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. Try to do some physical activity as exercise can be very beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Practice self care: Try breathing exercises. Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. Mindfulness can help with some anxiety disorders. Perhaps spend some time outdoors. Speak to a friend who makes you laugh. Take some time out of your day to relax. Focus on what you can control: Public Health England suggests that the best way to protect against illness, whether the common cold, flu or coronavirus is to practice good hygiene. Regularly wash your hands with warm water and soap, particularly after using public transport or before eating. If you can't wash your hands, it may be helpful to carry hand sanitiser with you. If you sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue and then immediately bin the tissue afterwards. Remember: "catch it, bin it, kill it" For more information on coronavirus, please visit NHS.uk.For more tips on how to self-care for anxiety, please visit MIND.
Article | Covid-19
Glossary: for legal terms in court guidance
Glossary for Court Guidance for the pandemic During the current pandemic, some parents whose children are the subject of Child Arrangements Orders, made by the Family Court, have been understandably worried about whether they can follow the order safely, whilst also respecting social distancing. This article is intended to explain some legal terms used in the Court’s guidance, but, as each child and family are different, it may not cover your specific questions. To read our summary of the guidance, please click here. To view the full guidance, please click here. What do some of the terms in the Court Guidance mean?:   Parental responsibility        This is the legal responsibility that all mothers and most fathers have, to look after their child in all ways.  Parent’s share this responsibility.   temporarily varied The changes to an arrangement are meant to last for as long as the Government restrictions on movement and work are in force.  Changes can be reviewed by parents at agreed dates or as the restrictions change  reasonably and sensibly All parents should pay attention to the things which keep a child well, from a child’s need for to spend time with both parents, to the safety issues for the child and for others which apply at the time.  This may mean considering the availability of alternative arrangements which make up for any changes to the usual arrangements.  A parent’s view should be based on a balance of those things. It would be helpful for these things to be written down and shared between the parents.  if the letter of a court order is varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered  The letter means exactly what is written down in the court order, the spirit means what it is trying to help to happen  acting in agreement  Parents working together to make and put in to action a new or changed child arrangement  extended family  These are relatives – grandparents for example – and may include members of new families and households – children of new partners for example  exception to the mandatory   a good reason to do something different to a requirement which normally must happen  Rules on Staying at Home and Away from Others  These are updated on gov.uk Child Arrangements Order [‘CAO’]  This is the order, made by a family court, which sets out where your child will live and who they spend time with.   
Article | Covid-19
Advice: working at home with kids
Practical tips for working at home with your children Amend your work life balance accordingly: Start earlier before the children are up Work around nap times If your children don’t nap, create a “quiet time” after lunch for two hours where they can read, draw or watch a movie, for example. Make this a new routine. Break for lunch. Exercise with your children in the day. Set aside time after dinner to do reflection or reading emails.  Plan for the day ahead: Get clothes out the night before. Get dressed for the day. Try to get up at the normal time for the start of school. Make up a packed lunch. Have break times. Use alarms to highlight the changeover of tasks or time of day. Set a daily timetable that the child can own and make decisions about when they need to do things – use a whiteboard or large piece of paper so they can mark their progress off and get a sense of achievement. Use pictures and colour-coding to mix days with what they like and don’t like, what will help them to concentrate. Tips on remaining productive and calm while working from home with children: Separate your “workspace” from the rest of your personal space – try to work from a different room so the rest of the household know when you are working. This will also help you “leave” work at the end of the day. If this is not possible, clear your workspace at the end of the day. Be extra vigilant when making sure that children cannot hear discussions about your work, particularly if it is sensitive, confidential or potentially distressing. This is particularly relevant if you are carrying out meetings via skype or teleconference. Set yourself fewer goals everyday as you won’t be able to achieve as much as you would if the children were not there with you. Do this by being clear on the urgent and important work tasks. Use the Eisenhower box to see what are the priorities to work on. Don’t be too hard on yourself – having a daily routine is good to support productivity, yet some days the routine won’t work. Accept this and you’ll feel more productive the next day. Enjoy the time you are not working – it can be frustrating trying to work and look after your children at the same time. Try to separate the slots – work when you work (and make sure everyone knows you are working) and enjoy family time when you don’t work. Be fully present in each and it will reduce the stress.
Article | Covid-19
Resources: for children with special needs
Supporting children with special needs during the Covid-19 lockdown   We have put together a short list of resources that may be helpful in keeping your child(ren) engaged and happy, whilst during the lockdown. These resources are helpful for children with additional needs, for example, autism, visual impairment, learning disabilities, or hearing impairment. BBC CBeebies for special needs: Resources and help for children with additional needs from the BBC, including Mr. Tumble! ITV Signed Stories: Signed Stories help improve the literacy of deaf children from infancy upwards. The website also provides useful advice and guidance for parents, carers and teachers of deaf children, and for the deaf parents of hearing children. Makaton with Mencap: Mencap has produced a Makaton video about handwashing. Singing Hands UK: Singing Hands is an organisation designed to improve communication with Makaton signing. The YouTube channel has everything from nursery rhymes, stories and games through to pop songs. Singing Hands holds live sessions on YouTube at 10.30am. Storyline Online: Storyline is an award-winning children’s literacy website that streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. National Autistic Society: The National Autistic Society is UK’s largest provider of specialist autism services. They have published guidance on coronavirus and our handy top tips for dealing with its impact.
Article | Covid-19
Advice: for older siblings trying to study
Top tips for older brothers and sisters at home Courtesy of Newstead Wood School, Orpington, Kent (part of the United Learning group of schools) Some children and young people will find themselves in the demanding position of being a part-time teacher to a younger brother or sister. Here’s some advice on how to make it work: It’s very normal and understandable for younger brothers and sisters (and you!) to want to be active and run around – especially with these new routines we are all developing. So, even though it feels like it, they are doing this to cope, not exclusively to cause stress! Working at home, especially with parents/brother/sisters can be really difficult and it is helpful to try to develop a flexible new routine e.g. while it’s not reasonable to expect your brother or sister never to bounce around at all, could there be agreed times – indicated by the door being closed, or a sign on the door – when you are working and need the room to be quiet? The sign is good because it will be a visual reminder of what you are doing. Having this routine will also help you. You don’t need to be working all of the time, so having this routine means you also have proper time to relax. It would be really helpful to sit down with your brother or sister and have a quick chat together. If they understand why your work is important to you, and what you have to do, this will help them to understand why you are asking them not to bounce around. For example: “I really like English and I’ve worked hard on reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and it’s important to me to do well because I want to get into a good university.”  “Now I need to write a paragraph on the book, which will probably take me about an hour” It is impossible to replace any behaviour (like bouncing around) with nothing. What works better is giving choices, for example, “Remember, we don’t run around – but would you like to draw a picture or watch Frozen?” It sounds simple but giving younger siblings a choice is a really helpful strategy, which works with all people (adults included), as it gives us a sense of control. We’re not saying it will be easy or that they will take to it straight away, but over time it is helpful. If they have lots of excess energy, then maybe some of the choices could be active and realistic in the home space, for example, star jumps on the spot, or a Joe Wicks PE video. It can also be helpful to ‘name their need’ - that means recognising why they are jumping around, for example, “I can see that you’re bouncing around It’s very important for you to remember that, whilst you are keen to help and support, you are not responsible for your brother or sister doing their schoolwork. This is a strange time for everyone and parents/carers up and down the nation are getting used to becoming teachers. It’s not easy to follow school routines and expectations at home – so, try not to worry, you don’t have to be a teacher too!
Article | Covid-19
Ideas: for keeping kids busy in lockdown
Courtesy of Coleridge Community College, Cambridge (part of United Learning group of schools) Top Tip: Quote: Write a letter to someone who is self- isolating. Send a picture or letter to your grandparents, or residents in a care home that are unable to see their families at the moment. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” Maya Angelou Draw or paint a picture of something that makes you happy. You could participate in the rainbow movement (@rainbowtrailuk) where people are encouraged to create a rainbow and place in their window to share with their community. Rainbows are a universal symbol of hope and promise; they’re the prize for weathering the storm. Time and again rainbows assure us that there will be beauty and clarity following times of doubt. Use the time to learn a new skill such as touch typing. You can learn for free through a course like typingclub.com “The expert in anything was once a beginner.” Anon Create a quiz that your family (across the town, country, or world) can participate in together. Use a tool like ‘Skype’ to be able to connect at the same time and participate together, whilst apart. Life becomes a celebration when friends keep in touch, so let’s celebrate our life by keeping in touch with one another. We may need to be at home, but we can still travel virtually. Follow the #museumfromhome where museum professors are telling you fascinating facts about museum artefacts. Or, you can visit any of these sites to get a virtual tour of museums (like The Louvre) or famous places (like The Vatican, or Yellowstone National Park)! “Keep exploring. Keep dreaming. Keep asking why. Don’t settle for what you already know.” Barack Obama Learn a new language. You can register for free with Duolingo and they have an introduction to lots of languages, including: Italian, German, Japanese, Arabic or Greek! “To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.” Chinese proverb Have you been outside yet today? Create an A-Z photo collage using items you find outside in your garden. For each letter of the alphabet take a photo of something that begins with the letter.  “Your life is your canvas, create a divine masterpiece.” Anon Do something kind for someone at home. This is a tough time for everyone – how can you show that you love and appreciate them?   “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Barbara De Angelis Use a plastic bag and a cup to build a parachute for a toy. How does the size and shape of the parachute affect the time it takes to fall? “There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.” Anon Listen to a genre of music you wouldn’t usually listen to, like classical, musicals country, reggae or swing. “Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.” George Eliot  
Article | Covid-19
Advice: coparenting and coronavirus
Helpful tips for co-parenting during the Coronavirus pandemic   In these uncertain times, keeping a routine will help your child to feel safe and secure. Whilst your child's school may be closed, consider sticking to normal meal and bedtimes and any other family rituals your child takes comfort in - for example movie night or reading a book together before bed. Keeping a routine: The child arrangements that you have in place – where a child lives and how they spend their time with both parents – are also very important parts of their routine. You should maintain these if possible, and the current government regulations allow this. The President of the Family Division (who is the leading Family Judge for England and Wales) has issued guidance, which you can read here. We've also written a short glossary of terms, which helps explain some of the legal language used in the Court Guidance. Think creatively about how you can support your child to stay in touch with their other parent and family members during any period of self-isolation. Skype and Facetime can be great ways to catch up and can be used to read stories, sing and play together. With older children you could also consider a watch party – where you gather online to watch a movie or video, commenting and ‘reacting’ in real time. Keeping in touch with other parents or family members: Think creatively about how you can support your child to stay in touch with their other parent and family members during any period of self-isolation. Skype and Facetime can be great ways to catch up and can be used to read stories, sing and play together. With older children you could also consider a watch party – where you gather online to watch a movie or video, commenting and ‘reacting’ in real time. Keep children out of earshot when discussing arrangements: Be extra vigilant when making sure that children cannot hear discussions about any dispute you may have with your child’s other parent. This is particularly relevant now as they are at home and there may be discussions taking place about arrangements. Exposing children to these disputes can result in them feeling confused, having divided loyalties and may harm them emotionally. Social distancing: If your household is not in self-isolation, then you and your child must still maintain sensible social distancing from members of the public. This means avoiding all social activities– and only using public transport if you really have to.
Article | Covid-19
Tips: taking care of yourself
Tips for taking care of yourself The best thing you can do for your children is to take care of yourself. By taking steps forward for yourself you will be helping your children as well. Remember out top tip: You can only take responsibility for yourself, don’t let your co-parent being at a different stage stop you from doing the things that your children need you to. Do things that are just for you – pamper yourself, visit friends, read, find time for yourself and so on. Eat properly and get enough sleep and exercise. There is plenty of help with this, if you can make some positive changes you may feel much better: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/. Try to limit the emotional energy you give to the conflict. Express your feelings by talking to a friend or counsellor. Release the tension by exercising. Although separation is a painful process for parents and children, remember that things change with time. Ask yourself ‘If I’m physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, how can I be available to care for my children?’ Then ask yourself what you can do to make things better seeking help if you need to. Tell yourself that it’s OK to feel angry or sad. You can express your feelings by talking to a friend or counsellor, by joining a support group or by exercising. If you feel that you are getting stuck with negative emotions or that they keep coming back and are not resolving, you might find that some support from friends or professional help from a counsellor can help. Counsellors will be able to help you name and acknowledge your feelings and to help you find strategies to move on. It is in your children’s’ interest to do this: you feeling better can only help them to feel better with their feelings of loss. You feeling better also lets you listen more clearly to what your children are saying – please see our “Listening to Children” tab for more info. Tip   Sometimes taking practical steps can really help: Cooperate about a parenting plan – in small steps – can be really constructive Talk to a mediator about ways they can help Start to think about communication skills can reduce the stress of contact – see our programme ‘Getting it Right for Children’ Think about venues for contact – if you need a neutral venue look at the network of contact centres accredited by the National Association of Child Contact Centres. Think also about other positive venues you could use.
Article | taking care of yourself, emotional readiness, emotional readiness tool, The Loss Cycle
Advice: dealing with a break-up
After a breakup, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions as you come to terms with the fact you’re no longer a couple. There’s no right or wrong way to feel and feelings can fluctuate constantly. On any given day, you might feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, anxious, or even relieved. When a relationship ends, many people experience a sense of loss and disappointment. It can be difficult to let go of the hopes and dreams you had for your relationship and look towards a new and uncertain future. Even if you were the one who ended the relationship, or you know it was unhealthy, the fear of the unknown can be harder to bear than the unhappiness you felt in the relationship. You might start to wonder if you have made the right decision. Both of you will miss things about each other, even when there’s a new partner involved. You may remember things you loved about your ex only when the relationship is over. No matter how happy your new partner makes you, it’s OK to miss some aspects of your previous relationship. But, while the leaver and the left may share a sense of loss, these feelings are likely to be more intense if you didn’t choose to end the relationship. You may feel out of control and, in the immediate aftermath,  it’s hard to minimise this feeling. Your routine has been disrupted and your life has changed. Psychologist and psychotherapist Dr Janet Reibstein explains: You haven’t planned for things so the chaos will be that much greater, the grief will be that much greater, and you’ll be going at a different pace.However, it’s often the emotional, rather than the practical, loss that feels most painful. Dr Reibstein recommends allowing yourself time to grieve your loss.It’s fair to say that, normally, as with a death, people go through the mourning process or readjustment and come out of it alive, and sometimes better off. Tips for dealing with a breakup: Take time out to grieve Recognise the intense and conflicting emotions you’re feeling and accept that you won’t be at your best for a while. It’s OK to give yourself a break. Remember that grief lessens with time It might seem easier said than done, but try to remind yourself that things will get easier after a while. Don’t go through it alone Isolating yourself can make the grief harder to cope with. Call on your support networks to help you get through this difficult time.  Remind yourself of the future It may be hard to let go of the hopes and dreams you held for your past relationship, but it’s important to remember you have a new future to embark on. In time, you will have new hopes and dreams to replace the old ones. Find new interests Try to see the breakup as an opportunity for new beginnings. Take up a hobby that attracts like-minded people; get into sport and revamp your image; or use dating or social networking sites to make new friends – these things can help improve your confidence, take your mind off the breakup, and encourage you to have fun again.
Article | Manage feelings about ex
Coping with your child's reactions
Children react to separation and divorce different ways: They may feel partly responsible. They may feel stuck in the middle and powerless to do anything. They may become anxious and feel protective of one or both parents. They may grieve for what they and their parents have lost. They may feel relieved. They may feel angry and confused.   Depending on their age, children show their distress differently. Babies and young children may become clingy or have trouble sleeping. Older children may get very angry, and have trouble playing or getting on with their friends. Depending on the circumstances, some children might side with one parent over the other. Children need time and help to adapt. Most children will have some difficulty coming to terms with their new family life. Some may have long-term difficulties that can lead to various emotional and behavioural problems. Distracted parents Separation can be a distressing for everyone involved. Many parents end up distracted during the process and find it hard to give their children the support they might need. Be honest about how you are coping. If you need help for yourself or in supporting your child, call on a friend, health professional or counsellor. You can only be there for your child if you’re looking after yourself, and a bit of support can make all the difference. Grandparents and other relatives can also provide valuable support for you and your children. Take the time to talk and listen Children can usually sense problems, even if they don't fully understand them. They may search for their own interpretations, such as believing they are to blame for the separation. You can help them make sense of the situation by talking to them about what's going on. Talk to your children about what they want from future arrangements, and reassure them that they don’t have to make the final decisions on their own. This can help them feel that their views are important, but that they are not expected to have to choose between their parents. You can help your child feel more secure by encouraging them to express their feelings, letting them know you understand how they feel, and making sure they feel they can ask questions. Children often feel a great sense of loss about the separation. Let them grieve in whatever way they need to. They will need time to adjust to the changes in their family relationships. Children often go through stages of loss and grief, and denial is a common response. They may also express anger towards you. Try not to take it personally – it’s all part of the process. A child will naturally have hopes and fantasies about the family, such as wanting you all to be reunited. Talk about these feelings, but be honest and avoid raising false hopes. Reassure your child Children often feel they've done something wrong or that they are to blame for the breakup. You can reassure them by explaining that they're not responsible and that you are going to do all you can to make things as easy as possible in the future. Children are often worried that if their parents can stop loving each other, they might stop loving their children too. This fear can be more intense when there is a new partner or new children on the scene. Reassure your children that, although you and your partner feel differently about each other, you will always love and take care of them. You may need to offer this reassurance several times. Protect children from your problems Children need to know that it’s OK to enjoy the time they spend with their other parent. This can be hard, as they are often aware of the difficulties you are having. You can help them by reassuring them that they’re allowed to love both parents. It can be extremely distressing for children when they hear their parents criticising or blaming each other. If you have to vent your frustrations about your ex, avoid doing it in front of your children. While it’s helpful to keep them in the loop about the changing arrangements, they don’t need to know all the details about your breakup.
Article | children, child's best interest
Family mediation – listening to your children
When parents separate, the top priority in sorting things out should be the needs of the children. However, researchers have noted that children are often left with no one to talk to. In one study, less than half the children could name someone they had been able to confide in about their worries. Divorce or separation is an emotional upheaval for everyone involved; both parents will need to be able to talk to, and children need someone to listen to them [1]. In another study, a quarter of children said no one talked to them about the separation at all. Of those who had been able to talk to someone, only 5% were given a full explanation and a chance to ask questions [2]. Children need reassurance about their immediate concerns around the separation, but they also want to have their say about anything that affects them. They are often more competent to take part in family decision-making than adults realise. Family mediation can help children understand and be involved in the changes happening in their family in two ways: 1. Child focused mediation Child focused mediation concentrates on the child’s needs after separation. It usually covers parenting time arrangements, and can include any other issues affecting the child’s health, education and general welfare. A family mediator works with both parents in a safe, supportive and neutral environment to help with communication and decision-making concerning the children. Early on in a separation, this can include helping parents prepare for the difficult task of explaining the separation to the children. This is especially useful if the parents are finding the process painful or are struggling to find an explanation that leaves out fault and blame. 2. Child inclusive mediation This is similar to child focused mediation, but includes a listening meeting, in which children and young people are invited to talk with a specially trained mediator. This is followed by a feedback meeting for the parents. Parents are assured that: Their children will not be asked to make choices or decisions. Their parental authority will be respected. Children are seen only with the agreement of both parents. The process and purpose of a listening meeting will be fully explained before involving children. Children who have had an opportunity to express their views and wishes about the issues affecting them after separation describe feeling relieved and much less anxious. The ‘listening meeting’ can help them to: Make sense of the changes in their lives. Understand that they are going through a process that many people share. Express their feelings. Develop a way of coping with conflict. Find ways of talking to their parents.  Children decide what information they want their parents to receive at the feedback meeting. This can provide reassurance for parents that they are on the right track, and it can help important information come to light that might otherwise have been missed. One of the most common pieces of feedback from children is a request for their mum and dad to stop arguing and get on better! There are some situations where child inclusive mediation is not appropriate. A mediator can talk this through with the parents and provide information about other options for establishing the children’s feelings and wishes.   References [1] Lussier, G, Deater-Deckard,K., Dunn, J. And Davies, L. (2002) ‘Support across two generations: Children’s closeness to grandparents following parental divorce and remarriage’. Journal of Family Psychology, 16,363-76. [2] Cockett and Tripp (1994). The Exeter Family Study: Family Breakdown and its impact on Children. University of Exeter Press.  
Article | Mediation, children
Low self-esteem in children
Children go through a wide range of emotions when their parents are separating. They may experience periods of unhappiness and low self-esteem, and many will have behavioural problems. Low self-esteem is often connected to feelings of sadness or anxiety, and could lead some children to withdraw socially. Children with low self-esteem may focus on the negative, worry about the way they treat others, find it difficult to accept compliments, and feel reluctant to do things. The impact of conflict on children Being in the presence of conflict can have a negative effect on a child’s feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. It is always best for your child if you and your ex-partner can keep any residual conflict away from the children. What’s the solution? Most children of separated parents find it easier to settle back into a normal pattern of development when their parents maintain a good relationship and communicate well with each other. You can take steps towards improving communication with your ex-partner, including using our free online course Getting it Right for Children. You may find it helpful to use our free online parenting plan. However, it’s important to note that other factors, such as the child’s temperament or external stresses, may make things harder for the child to settle back into their routine. Talking to your child If you’re worried about how your child is coping with the separation, make some time to talk to them. Find out how your child is feeling and reassure them that they are not to blame for the breakdown between you and your ex-partner.
Article | children, child's best interest
Planning parenting time
Every family is different. If you’ve separated from your partner, your plans for parenting time will depend on several factors: The ages of the children - young children suit a ‘little but often’ routine, whereas older children can deal with longer blocks of time. Parents' work and other commitments  - shift workers may have more restrictions than parents who work from home. The accommodation of the parent who doesn't live with the children. How far apart the two homes are  - parents who live ten minutes apart will have more opportunities for frequent visits than parents who live two hours apart. The children's wishes and any specific needs they have. The type of co-parenting relationship you have  - this includes factors like how well you communicate and co-operate. In the early days, many families start without much of a plan. Visits are arranged at short notice, and activities are open and flexible. This can work well if the children are getting to see both parents regularly and there is a strong co-parenting relationship. A flexible arrangement requires good communication, and give and take on all sides. If children don't know when they're next seeing their mum or dad, they may worry, especially if there are sometimes long gaps between visits. Co-parenting requires frequent communication and co-operation, so it’s important to establish the parameters and remain consistent. Work out a plan together. Consider the practicalities and your own expectations but, most importantly, ask the children how they feel about it all. Things to bear in mind Children cope best with predictable and regular routines. If the children are of school age, it can be helpful to separate routines for term time and holiday time. You'll probably want to have special arrangements for days like birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. If you want to take the children away on holiday, you will need extra planning time. Be prepared to consult each other well in advance before you make any commitments. Have some flexibility to make changes now and again, but don't make changes without consulting your child’s other parent. Try to be considerate and accommodating when discussing changes. When it comes to parenting time, quality is more important than quantity. If you’ve only got limited time with your children, make it count – they will remember the good times. Children like doing ordinary, everyday things as well as having treats. Be prepared to review the arrangements. Don't worry about making your parenting plan perfect on the first attempt. Try it, review it, and then make adjustments as needed. If you want a template to get things started, you can use our free parenting plan.
Article | planning, child's best interest
Family mediation
What is mediation? Mediation is a place for separated and separating parents to talk about their children, property and finances. It is a form of dispute resolution that offers parents a safe place to have an open and honest discussion. Mediation is confidential – everything you say is private and will not be used in any court proceedings. Trained family mediators are non-judgemental and impartial. They do not tell you what to do, and you remain in control of the decision making. A mediator’s role is to support you in finding solutions that work for everyone.   Does family mediation work? Mediation works best when parents want to find a way forward and sort things out. People who use mediation sessions to resolve their disagreements usually come to an agreement sooner and at less cost than those who use solicitors and go to court. Family mediation can also reduce ongoing conflict. You are required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you can start court proceedings. This session can help you decide whether mediation is right for you. Using mediation does not stop you from going to court later if you still feel you need to. How much does mediation cost and how many meetings will I need? Prices vary but if you are on a low income you may qualify for legal aid. The number of meetings you will need depends on the complexity of issues that need to be resolved. Issues about arrangements for your children can take one or two meetings but if you need to discuss property and financial issues as well, you may need three to five meetings. Will the mediator give me legal advice? Mediators can give you legal information but they will not give you legal advice. You can always take legal advice from another source before finalising an agreement you've reached in mediation. I don’t trust my ex to stick to an agreement if it’s not legal. Wouldn’t it be better to go straight to court? Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. However, experience shows that agreements made voluntarily are more likely than court orders to reflect children’s and parents’ needs, and are therefore more likely to last. It also helps to improve understanding, restore communication and build trust. If necessary, agreements made in mediation can be used as the basis of a court order. In the case of property and financial issues on divorce, a memorandum of understanding produced in mediation can be used as the basis of a consent order. What if I feel pressured to agree to something I’ll regret later? Although the mediator will provide encouragement, you will not be pressured into agreeing anything and it is up to you to make the final decision. If you are discussing property and financial issues, you are advised to obtain legal advice on your proposals before finalising them. Who else will be in the meeting? Usually, only the mediator and the parents are present at meetings. Occasionally it is helpful to have a supporter or a legal advisor present at a meeting but both parents would need to agree to this. Can the children be included? Some mediation services offer children the opportunity to be included in the process. Research has found that children feel better if they have an opportunity to have their say about decisions that affect them. There’s no point – we’ll never agree It is not unusual to feel that agreement is impossible, especially if your previous attempts have failed. However, mediation is a different approach and the presence of a trained mediator can make a big difference to the kind of conversation you can have. Mediation may work where other methods have failed. What if my partner is better at negotiating than I am? How will I get my point across? Mediators are trained to make sure both parents’ views are heard and understood. They do not take sides so they will not be influenced if one person is a better negotiator than the other. I don’t think my ex will come Mediation is voluntary, so people can’t be forced to come. However, the mediator will write to your ex explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering to meet them alone to discuss their options. This can be a helpful for parents who feel reluctant about using the service. For further information and advice about family mediation, visit Family Mediation Council (FMC).
Article | Mediation
Introducing children to new partners
After a divorce or separation, a time comes when new relationships start forming. For some this might start soon – even before the separation - but for others it can be years before they feel ready for another personal relationship. Whenever it happens, it’s worth bearing in mind that new relationships can have an impact on your children and your ex. While it can be an exciting time for you, it might be unsettling for the other people in your life. If you are the parent with the new partner When parents start new relationships, it can be tough for the children. They might feel: jealous that they no longer have you to themselves sad that you and your ex aren’t getting back together insecure about competing for your attention frightened of losing you to your new partner resentful of having to get used to more change anxious about the other parent – will the other parent feel more alone? Will the other parent mind if you like the new partner? Some children will of course feel very positive about new partners, seeing it as a sign that their parents are happier and getting on with their life. See the final section below for tips on supporting children through a difficult transition. If your ex has a new partner If you and your children feel delighted or even relieved when your ex meets someone new, you can skip this section! But if you are upset, shocked or surprised to hear your ex is seeing someone, you may need to call on friends and family to give you some support to adjust to this new development. You may wonder how the new relationship will affect the children. If you and your ex are on good terms, you may be able to talk through these worries together. If you don’t have this kind of relationship with your ex, or if emotions are running high, the introduction of a new partner can be fuel to the fire. If one parent insists that the new partner should spend time with the children and the other parent doesn’t agree, successful parenting arrangements can fall off the rails. If your children start complaining and criticising the new partner, or even if they just want to spend more time with you, or if they alarm bells can start ringing. Your initial reaction might be to plough in and give your ex a piece of your mind, or even to make the contact conditional on the new partner not being there. Take a moment to consider an alternative explanation. You’re hurting. Your children can see that you’re hurting. What do you think their response to this might be? Children worry that they are betraying their other parent if they accept a new partner. One way of proving their loyalty to you is to say they don’t like the new partner. These loyalty conflicts are particularly bad if parents don’t get on. They might want to spend more time with you because they are worried about you. If you are worried about the impact a new partner is having on your children and you are sure that they are not telling you what they think you want to hear, then ask to speak to your ex.   Best tips for helping children with new partners Try to avoid introducing new partners straight after the separation. Children need time to adjust to their parents being separated first. Only introduce children to someone you want to be part of your everyday life. Take it slowly at first and be sensitive to your child’s reactions. Just because you think your new partner is great doesn’t mean that your children will agree. Tell the other parent about your plans before this person is formally introduced to the children. Reassure your ex that the children are still important to you, and be prepared to have a conversation about your new partner’s involvement. Make sure you and the children have some alone time without your new partner. This is especially important if the children don’t live with you. Be clear that the new partner is not a substitute parent. A new partner should behave as any responsible adult would towards children but this is very different from taking on a parenting role. Support your children in adapting to the reality of life moving on. Answer their questions but respect their wishes if they don’t want to talk about the new partner.
Article | new partner, Manage feelings about ex
Two parents, two homes
After a separation, most children want reassurance that, although life is changing, they will still have access to both of their parents. It can also be important to keep in touch with other family members who may also be a source of support and can help a child adjust to new family arrangements. The quality of parenting time matters more than the amount of time. Effective parenting – showing an interest, offering encouragement, giving love and warmth – is what counts. There are situations, however, where spending time with a parent or carer may be damaging, such as when there is no previous relationship; or where there are known risks of abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or extreme conflict between the parents. What children think about contact Both parents need to agree child arrangements, taking account of changing circumstances as children grow older. Younger children benefit from frequent and regular contact, but older children prefer parents to be flexible, as they have their own social activities and friends to make time for. Research into how children feel about contact shows that: Most children want to see their parents/carers . Most children still value the parent who has left home, seeing them as an important part of their family. Losing touch is painful and, even when they do spend time with the parent/carer who doesn't live at home, some children would like to see them more. Children in the same family sometimes feel differently about the same arrangements. Children tend to be happier when they are involved in decisions and can talk to a parent about problems. Children need to feel that their views about spending time with their parents/carers are considered. Children usually enjoy spending time with their parents/carers, but can find it distressing if parents don't turn up as arranged. Other problems for children include: Feeling torn between parents. Seeing parents argue. Harassment or abuse. Being used as a go-between. Relationships with a parent's new partner. Missing the resident parent. Having to move between two homes. Some children will fight against seeing a non-resident parent/carer. They may feel too upset, angry and confused for a while – this is likely to be temporary. What child arrangements should be made? There's no single way of agreeing child arrangements to suit all children and parents. Some parents share care, where a child spends a percentage of their time with one parent and the rest with the other. Sometimes, contact is every other weekend, holidays only, or day visits. Arrangements will depend on the children’s personal circumstances; the distance between their homes; suitable accommodation; any financial constraints; and the parents’ working patterns. What the children want, and their age and maturity, will also be considered. Adults’ and children’s needs change as circumstances change. You may have to review child arrangements to fit in with events like moving house, changing schools, a new job, new partners, and new babies. If you need help arranging child arrangements If you find you need help deciding on child contact issues and other aspects of your separation, family mediation could help you to exchange information, ideas and feelings constructively. You would remain responsible for all decisions. If your child arrangements have become more difficult due to Covid-19, please visit our Covid-19 tab for tips and advice on how to manage this change.
Article | separation
Tips: arguing with your ex
When parents separate, exposure of children to rows and disagreements can cause them a lot of emotional harm. Developing a way of working out disagreements can protect your children and keep your stress levels to a minimum. Disagreements are a part of life Parents often have different views about what's best for their children, even when they are together. When you’ve separated, these disagreements can easily get blown out of proportion. Ask yourself how important the disagreement is. Often, the best way to deal with a difference is to look for a compromise or even just to let it go. Unresolved disagreements   When dealing with the more important issues, arrange a time and place where you can talk properly and where the children won't overhear. Emphasise your desire to work it out and do what’s best for the children and work to understand each other. Don’t try to win the argument, and don’t make assumptions about the other parent's needs and motives. Ask questions and check the facts. Language and behaviour   Be respectful. Avoid insults and blame, and don’t get drawn into the past. Focus on the future and what you can do to improve things. Keep reminding yourself that this is about the children, and that the best thing you can do is work together to sort things out. If you’re struggling to communicate with your ex-partner, you may find mediation helpful. Mediators are skilled at helping parents resolve disagreements. They may help you see things differently, so that you can reach an agreement.
Article | Communication with ex-partner, manage myself
Info: support for grandparents
Being a grandparent is a precious role, with all the joys of spending time with and caring for a child, and less of the stress. Most grandparents idolise their grandchildren, and grandchildren can thrive on that special relationship. After a parental divorce or separation, the grandparents’ role can shift dramatically and what was once taken for granted becomes fraught with complications. Grandparents – especially those who have been very closely involved – might get caught in the middle. You may worry about seeing less of your grandchildren or losing contact altogether. Your loyalties can be torn between wanting to support your child through the painful periods and wanting to stay on good terms with their ex-partner. After a separation, grandparents are faced with many dilemmas:   Grandparents are often called on for advice and support. They need to be good listeners while staying neutral. Grandparents are expected to be there to pick up the pieces but withdraw whenever they are regarded as being too interfering. Grandparents should respect boundaries but also be available for support when needed. Grandparents often have to provide comfort, reassurance and answers for angry and confused children, not always knowing exactly what is going on themselves. During a separation, parents are often overwhelmed with their own issues and with making sure their children are OK. In this state, it’s easy overlook the valuable role that grandparents play. It is worth taking the time to sit down and talk with grandparents about what they are might be thinking and feeling, making sure they don’t feel taken for granted. It is OK to say you need them. The support of grandparents can be a crucial factor in how children cope with their parents' separation. Try to be clear about what you would like from them, and encourage them to do the same for you. Be open and honest. Keep in mind that when a couple’s relationship breaks down it doesn't just affect the immediate family members – it touches other family members in a number of ways too. You may also like to visit "how mediation can assist grandparents" on the National Family Mediation website.
Article | grandparents
Tips: communicating with your ex
As a separated parent, one of your biggest challenges will be to put aside your feelings about your ex to focus on your child. This is not an easy thing to do. It can take a long time to adjust to the end of a romantic relationship. When you have children together, you’ll need to renegotiate the terms of your relationship entirely. You're no longer partners, but you will still need to work together to raise the children. Although your conversations may be focused more on practicalities, it’s still important to share the positives of being parents. Look for opportunities to talk about your children's successes and try to appreciate what their other parent does for them – staying positive can help you keep the dialogue open. If your ex is making communication difficult it is easy for bad feelings and behaviour to escalate. While you may not be able to control your ex’s behaviour, you do have power over your own, and can at least try to be a positive influence. Your ex may just be going through a tough patch. Keep sticking to your goal of focusing on the children's needs and stay patient, and you'll stand a better chance of getting through it without doing too much damage to your co-parenting relationship. Try to agree to keep the co-parenting conversations separate from all other discussions, for example, about the house or money. These are important issues so you will need to make sure they are being dealt with somewhere else. If face-to-face conversation is too hard for the moment, you might find using text or email easier. Just bear in mind that tone of voice and body language can affect how people respond to communication. The absence of these cues means that messages can be misinterpreted, so pay attention to how you phrase things, and give your ex the benefit of the doubt. If you need to raise something difficult,  let the other parent know you would like to talk and then agree a convenient time and place. Set an agenda so there are no surprises and you can both be prepared. Agreeing to meet in a public place can ensure you both behave civilly, and it also takes you out of the children’s environment. To keep your communication at its most effective, consider having regular meetings to review: The children's successes and achievements. Parenting time arrangements. Special events. Health, education and general welfare. Discipline and boundaries. Activities.   Why it's worth the effort If you don't find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both, it's going to be hard on everyone – the children will miss out and you could end up dreading every conversation with your child’s other parent. Children's needs change as they grow older; your life will change too - it’s important that you can sit down together and talk about how these changes will affect you. You might find it helpful to complete an online Parenting Plan together. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some good will makes the difficult conversations that much easier. Mediation could be helpful in developing a dialogue. Furthermore, there is some helpful online training that you can do, by completing the Getting it Right for Children activity.
Article | Communication with ex-partner
How to prepare for family mediation
Mediation is a process in which parents work together with a professional mediator to develop a mutually acceptable parenting plan. The parenting plan can be quite structured, specifying the day-to-day arrangements for the children, as well as plans for the school holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. You and your child’s other parent decide what to include. Parental conflict over arrangements can have a damaging effect on children. By working together in a safe and managed way with a mediator, parents can avoid these battles and come to agreement that suits the children’s needs. How to prepare for the mediation process Approach mediation with an open mind and be willing to listen. Parents who are open and listen to their ex-partner are more able to reach a settlement. Do your homework before mediation and come prepared with several options. Write down a few ideas and proposals so you can refer to them in the mediation session. What children need is often different from what parents need. Make sure you understand your children's needs, so you can stay focused on them and not on each other. Family mediation is not the place to focus on the other parent. The process is likely to break down if you and your ex-partner get into an argument about who said what. This is not a place to rehash old conflicts but rather to solve parenting problems after divorce or separation.  Be open to different ideas, and willing to compromise so you can reach a peaceful solution on behalf of your children.  Things that might help you while you are mediating Focusing on your children's needs rather than your own. Acknowledging that children have different needs depending their age, temperament, and development. Acknowledging the other parent's strengths. Accepting that children need time with both parents. What to take with you to the mediation meeting A proposal for where the children will live and a time-sharing plan. A calendar of school holidays, work schedules, and a schedule for your child's activities. A flexible attitude. A positive attitude that you will be able to sort things out between yourselves. If you want some help with making arrangements, try our free Parenting Plan. You can do it all online, including reviewing each other's suggestions so you don't need to meet up with your ex-partner when you want to make changes. If you'd like further insight into how mediation might work for you, this video from Creating Paths to Family Justice offers helpful information on how different types of mediation can work:
Article | Mediation
As children grow, their needs change
As children grow up and develop through different stages, they gradually become more involved in the world outside their immediate families. If you and your child's other parent are separated, you may need to review your parenting arrangements as your child's needs change. Starting nursery and school are both significant steps, usually marking the start of children developing their own social lives. By the time children reach their mid to late teens, it might seem like their friends have become more important than their family. For separated parents, life transitions like these can also trigger a need to review the childcare arrangements. If possible, it's better for children if both parents are involved in the planning and decision making around these stages and changes. Older children may want to take on part-time jobs or have weekend sleepovers at their friends’ homes. When children start school, parents need to consider that parenting time will be built around the beginning and end of the school day and term times. All parents will will also have to take responsibility for making sure homework gets done and school uniform is washed and ready for Monday morning. If your children spend part of the school week at both homes, you will find that good communication and planning are essential to keeping life easy. If you have a good co-parenting relationship, adapting the arrangements to suit your children's changing needs doesn’t have to be a big issue. If, however, you find agreeing changes with the other parent difficult and avoid discussing the need to review things, you may find things suddenly aren't working anymore. Most parenting plans have a shelf life of about two years before they need to be reviewed. Sticking rigidly to an outdated plan can be very constricting to children. Be prepared to accept that reviewing the arrangements is a normal part of sharing the joys and challenges of watching your children grow up. New parents and siblings It's common for children to become part of a new stepfamily after their parent's relationship ends. The prospect of a baby brother or sister can be exciting to children of all ages, but can also feel like a threat. If you're the other parent, you may have mixed feelings about your ex's new family but your priority should be to support your children. If you find it difficult to support your ex, try to see it as an opportunity to show goodwill by accommodating changes to arrangements around the birth of the baby and being flexible around parenting time. Please see our online Parenting Plan for help setting up and reviewing child arrangements.
Article | separation, children, child's best interest
Family courts – what they expect from you
Before you apply for a court order it is worth remembering that judges will expect you to have tried to agree. You and your ex have joint responsibility for working out the arrangements for your children. This duty continues when you separate, even if you have never lived together. If you can’t talk to each other, you will be expected to ask for help from a mediator or a solicitor. The court will expect each parent to put forward their case. It is the court’s duty to put the child’s welfare first. It can be hard for parents to accept that what they ask for may not be what is best for the child. What courts say is best for a child:   For parents to encourage the child to have a good relationship with the other parent. For parents to have a ‘good enough’ relationship with each other. For the child to spend time with both parents. The law sees it as the child’s right to have regular, personal contact unless there is a very good reason not to. In the rare cases where contact is denied, the court will have been satisfied that the child’s safety is at risk. Denial of contact is unusual and in most cases the contact ordered will be frequent and substantial, considering the child’s age and all the circumstances. In some cases, contact will be arranged on an interim basis which will be subject to review until the Court is satisfied that the amount and frequency of contact is right. Non-payment of child support is not a reason the court would consider denying contact.  Summary If you want to change agreed arrangements, the court will expect you to make sure the other parent agrees first or that you have used the help of a mediator or solicitor before going to court. Experience shows that court-imposed orders tend to work less well than agreements made between parents. Court proceedings are good for restoring contact when it has stopped and increasing it when it is insufficient. However, going to court does not necessarily improve the parenting relationship, which is so important to children’s wellbeing. While family mediation offers parents a chance to improve their relationship and focus on the needs of the child, going to court tends to teach couples how to argue.  Having a court order If there is a court order in place you must do what it says, even if you don’t agree with it. If you want to do something different, you must apply to the court to have it varied or discharged.
Article | separation, children
Tips: communication for separated parents
Things may not always go smoothly when co-parenting with your ex-partner. It helps to be clear about what your most important goals are for the future. Here are two that you might want to consider: To commit to supporting your children in having a free and uncomplicated relationship with the other parent. To keep whatever feelings you have about each other separate from your co-parenting relationship. These principles can serve as foundations for everything you do as co-parents. You may want to personalise them and add your own details, or use our free online parenting plan template to agree on some shared commitments. Parents’ communication post-separation Having blocks of time when you do not see your children means both of you will miss out on some of the things your children are doing. It’s important to remember that children notice if one parent isn’t aware of things that are important to them – things like a school project, a lost toy or a fall from a bike. It’s not realistic to expect to have a full report of everything that happens to the children, but you should try to aim for regular updates to keep everyone involved. When you are co-parenting, communication has to become a more deliberate and thoughtful exercise than it was before. It's important for both parents to be a vital link between the children’s day-to-day life and their other parent. The more you pass on, the easier the transition will be for the children going between the two homes. It’s up to you to take an active interest in all aspects of the children’s lives. Don’t leave it all to your ex to keep you updated with the children’s news – ask how they are getting on, what they’ve been up to, and when the next parent’s evening is. Children feel secure and cared for when parents communicate clearly. Don’t leave it to the children to pass on their news and never ask children to communicate with their other parent on your behalf. You might find it impossible to imagine talking frequently and easily with your ex about the children. Some parents fall into conversation quite easily after separation but, for others, it can take years to feel OK. Take small steps and accept that it might take some time to get it right. When communication is difficult Communication can be difficult because: You feel too anxious, angry, or upset to speak to the other parent. You always end up arguing – it’s easier to not talk at all. The other parent refuses to speak to you. You feel the other parent is more powerful than you. You simply don’t like the other parent. You struggled to communicate even when you were together.   Why it’s worth the effort If you don't find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both, it's going to be hard on everyone – the children will miss out and you could end up dreading every conversation with your child’s other parent. Children's needs change as they grow older; your life will change too - it’s important that you can sit down together and talk about how these changes will affect you. You might find it helpful to complete an online Parenting Plan together. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some good will makes the difficult conversations that much easier. Mediation could be helpful in developing a dialogue. Furthermore, there is some helpful online training that you can do, by completing the Getting it Right for Children activity.
Article | children, separation
What is co-parenting, exactly?
Co-parenting is a term often used by professionals but rarely by parents themselves. ‘Co-parent’ is a shortened version of ‘co-operative parent’, and co-operation is essential to making things work between ex-partners. However, if you are in the middle of a divorce or leaving a long-term relationship, you might feel like you don’t have the energy for co-operation. So how are you expected to put your hurt and anger to one side, and co-operate with each other? Learning to be an effective co-parent is an ongoing process that will last as long as your children need you. Like any new skill, it takes time and practice to feel you are doing it well (or well enough) and there will be many times when you will feel you are getting it wrong and finding it really hard going. Think about when you first became a parent. The responsibility may have felt overwhelming you probably worried about getting it wrong but, over time, most of us figure out a way to grow in confidence. The same can be said of parenting after a relationship has broken down – you won't always get it right but there are some basics to think about that will help along the way. Respect each other's parenting style. Your ex might have different approaches to mealtimes, bedtimes and entertainment but try not to interfere. Unless the child is at risk of harm, you should try to accept the differences. When you speak about your child's other parent, use positive or neutral comments. Try to encourage family and friends do the same. However tempting it is, don't question your children about the other parent or encourage them to act as spies. If you have questions about what goes on at the other parent's home, ask your ex directly. Don't encourage children to complain about the other parent. If there is a problem, encourage them to talk to their other parent about it. Try and keep your feelings about your ex separate from your parenting decisions. Treat your child's other parent as you would like to be treated yourself. Whenever possible, communicate directly with each other. Never communicate through your child, even when they are older, and even on small issues. Texting and emailing can be useful but sometimes things can be misinterpreted. Share information about your child with each other. There should not be any competition around who has the most information. Make sure your child has what they need at each home. Your child shouldn’t have to carry the burden of ferrying stuff backwards and forwards between homes. Keep to financial arrangements and notify the other parent about any issues that will affect him/her. Make difficult decisions together and don't involve your child until you have agreed. Decide on the values you want your child to learn. Communicate about routines, bedtime, schedules, school expectations, discipline, etc. You may not always agree about these and, in some cases, there will be different expectations at each parent's home. But it is important that you discuss what goes on at each of your homes. Keep each other updated on your contact information. You should each know the other's address, telephone, work number, etc. You may also like to visit the Parenting Information Programme on the National Family Mediation website.
Article | children, separation, Communication with ex-partner
Shared care – is it the best thing for you?
For most parents, work commitments are the biggest barrier to a more equal sharing of time with children. When parents separate, they are forced to rethink their childcare arrangements. It might seem like the most logical solution is to continue with a similar arrangement to when you were together. If you are the children’s main care provider, you might argue that it’s best for the children to live with you, and minimise the changes they are already going through. If you are not the main carer, you might worry that you will start to become less important in your children’s lives if they only get to see you occasionally. While there is never an easy answer to this question, it’s important to remember that the children’s needs come first – this is how a court would approach the question too. If you and the child’s other parent can get along and communicate well, then it’s much more likely that you’ll be able have a successful shared parenting arrangement. The following questions may help you see if shared care would work for your children: Can you communicate and negotiate fairly about the children? Do you respect your ex as a parent despite your relationship disappointments and personal differences? Can you put your personal disagreements and conflicts to one side and focus on what the children need? Can you compromise when there are disagreements? Are you willing to share control with your ex and respect the autonomy of their household? Do you have similar values around parenting? Can you tolerate your differences? Can you distinguish between the important and unimportant differences? Do you value what the other parent has to offer your child? Are you willing to put in extra time and effort to co-ordinate schedules? Is your child good at handling transitions? Did you share childcare when you were together? If not, is there a commitment to increase sharing now? This is just a guideline but, if you answer yes to most of these questions, then you may be more successful at coming to a shared care agreement. If there are lots of no's, or just one or two that you’re concerned about, then it might be better to consider another type of arrangement that would suit your children better. Or, you could work on the problem areas with your ex. Using family mediation may be helpful.
Article | children, separation, Communication with ex-partner
Info: child contact centres explained
This page summarises how Child Contact Centres work under normal conditions.  There is more information about how the National Association of Child Contact Centres is working to enable contact safely, online, and their website here, and also, on their Facebook page.   Child contact centres are neutral places where children meet the mother or father who no longer lives at home with them. The centres provide a valuable service in allowing contact to take place which otherwise might not happen. There are two types of child contact services – supported and supervised.  Supported child contact centres are often held in community centres or church halls. They have facilities to help children build up or maintain their bond with the non-resident parent and other family members. Staff and volunteers are available to assist parents and help create a comfortable atmosphere. They also deal with the handover of the child so ex-partners don’t need to meet. The staff are completely impartial and are not there to monitor or write reports about parents. The only things recorded are the dates and times of attendance.  If the contact goes well – and everyone agrees – the next step might be for the parent and child to spend some time together outside of the contact centre. Sometimes the contact centre is used just to help with the handovers. After a while, many parents will feel confident enough that the contact centre is no longer needed. If you feel that a contact centre would be helpful to you, visit NACCC or talk to your solicitor, social worker, health visitor or doctor. In most cases, you will need a referral. Supported contact centres are suitable for families where no significant risks have been identified for the child or those around them. Where there are risk factors, supervised contact may be necessary. Supervised contact gives priority to the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child. It also assists in building and sustaining positive relationships between a child and members of their non-resident family. This requires skilled supervisors who are confident enough to intervene if necessary and can work with vulnerable children and distressed adults. Referrals will usually be made by a court, Cafcass officer, local authority, or another child contact centre. Cafcass only work with contact centres which are NACCC accredited, meeting their standards for service delivery and management. 
Article | separation, children
Children and separation: first steps for parents
Knowing how to deal with the practical issues of separation – sorting out new living arrangements, arranging child support – can help your life run more smoothly at a difficult time. Even though you are no longer in a romantic relationship with your child’s other parent, your first job is to build a new kind of relationship – a parenting partnership. Try to remember that your children's experience of your ex-partner is different from yours. Focus on your strengths as partners and parents, and let your children’s needs guide you. Communicating with your ex Avoid blaming yourself or your partner. Agree not to let your own relationship issues come into the discussion. Create some rules together about how to manage meetings. If the conversation breaks down, agree to stop and continue at another time. Don't use your child to pass message between you and your partner. Focus on child-related issues and stick to the point. Work on an online Parenting Plan.   When you can't see eye to eye It’s inevitable that there will be some conflict or disagreement, but if you find that you can't see eye to eye, or if you're worried about anything, you could benefit from the help of a third party. This doesn't have to mean going through the courts. Mediation can help you to negotiate your decisions and communicate better with your ex. A trained mediator's job is to act as an impartial third party, helping you exchange information, ideas and feelings constructively. Many parents end up distracted and upset during separation and find it hard to give their child the support they need. If you need help, call on a friend, health professional or counsellor. A sympathetic ear and a bit of reassurance can make life more manageable. Grandparents and other relatives can also be a source of support for you and your child. Does spending time with all parents/carers matter? Most children want to spend time with their parents/carers and carry on seeing both of them as part of their family. Keeping in contact with the parent who has left home reassures a child that, although life will be different, they are not losing one of their parents. The pain of separation and change can be worse for children if they also lose touch with others they are close to. Keeping in touch with other family members (who may also be able to offer extra support) can help a child adjust to new family arrangements. It's the quality of parenting that matters most, not the amount of time. Effective parenting, showing an interest, encouragement, love, and warmth are what counts. However, there are situations where the child arrangements may be damaging - for example, where there is no previous relationship or where there are known risks of abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, or extreme conflict between the parents. In these cases, the court may place restrictions around child arrangements, and these should be heeded.
Article | children, separation, manage myself
Protecting children during separation
Around one in three children in the UK are likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16. Knowing the effects that a breakup might have can help you protect against them and give your children the best chance at managing the change. One of the most common effects children of separated couples will notice is having less money. Children whose parents split up are also more likely to struggle with social, emotional and cognitive development. This is true whether the parents were married or not. Children’s health can also suffer – physically and psychologically. Children of separated parents are more likely to act out and take part in risky behaviours like substance misuse. Children of separated couples also tend to have problems at school and may have difficulty with future employment prospects. Children of separated couples may also face challenges when it comes to forming successful relationships of their own when they grow up. Do all children of separated couples have problems? Not all children will suffer long-term harm from the breakup of a relationship. If the relationship between separated parents remains friendly, most children can adjust to the new family situation, even after an initial period of unhappiness and instability. The main factors in protecting children from these risks are: Good quality parenting. A lack of financial hardship. The stability of the parents’ relationships after the separation. There may not be much you can do about financial hardship, but you can certainly support your child by making an effort to get on well with your ex-partner. If you and your ex are still arguing, try to keep it away from your child. Work towards resolving your differences and creating a stable home life. Who is affected the most by separation: boys or girls? There is some evidence showing that boys find separation more upsetting to begin with, but that the effects on girls are more likely to last longer. Boys tend to find it easier than girls to adjust to stepfamilies, particularly in early adolescence. Generally speaking, older boys and girls find it harder than younger children to adjust to a new family. However, younger children might not be as aware of their parents’ relationship problems, so the separation can sometimes come as more of a shock. This may lead to younger children feeling more confused and anxious, and can even result in them blaming themselves for the separation. The impact of new partners and families There is also a link between behaviour problems and the number of relationships the parents have after the separation. When you get together with someone else, there is a transitional period for the child. They are already adjusting to a new way of life and meeting a new step-parent means another transition for them to deal with. Research shows that multiple transitions can be bad for a child’s behaviour, leading to behaviour problems and hyperactivity. Many children find a parent’s remarriage more stressful than the separation itself. If you’ve met a new partner, be aware that the introduction is going to be a big deal for your children, and consider the long-term future of the relationship before taking any big steps. Children may find it easier to deal with a parent’s new partner if the other biological parent is not starting a new relationship at the same time. If you and your ex are both moving on, consider making the introductions at different times. Having a stable family situation in at least one home could really help your child. Protecting children from the effects of separation The good news is that you can take steps to limit the effects of separation on your children, and they needn’t suffer any long-term harm. There’s no simple formula to follow, but the key factors linked to positive outcomes for children are: Good quality, warm parenting from both parents. Continuing good relations and co-operation between parents. Social support for the child from extended family and friends. So, keep on nurturing your child, try to maintain good relations with your ex-partner and make sure you’re involving good friends and other family. It may still be an unsettling time, but your child can emerge safely at the other side if they feel well supported and safe from conflict. If you’d like some extra help managing the transition, try our free online parenting plan.
Article | children, separation, child's best interest
How to tell your children you are separating
Children react to separation and divorce in lots of ways – they may feel partly responsible; they may grieve for what they and their parents have lost; they may feel relieved; or they may feel angry and confused. Depending on their age, children show their distress differently. Babies and young children may become clingy or have trouble sleeping; older children may get very angry, have trouble playing with others, or might side with one parent over the other. Children need time and help to adapt. Most children will have some difficulty coming to terms with their new family life; a few may have long-term difficulties that can lead to emotional and behavioural problems. There are no hard and fast rules applying to children and divorce, but if you need help for yourself or in supporting your children, call on a friend, health professional or counsellor. Taking time to talk and listen Children can usually sense problems (even if they can't hear them) and will often think the worst, such as believing they are to blame for the separation. Telling them about what's going on can help them to make some sense of the situation. Listening to what children want future arrangements to be like, and reassuring them that they're not responsible for making final decisions, will help them to feel that their views are important but that they are not expected to have to choose between parents. You can help children feel more secure by supporting them to express their feelings, letting them know you understand how they feel, and making sure they know they can ask questions if they want to. Children often feel a great sense of loss. Letting them grieve is an important part of helping them to deal with the situation and to move on to accept the changes in their family relationships. Denial is a common response to big changes. Children may also express anger towards you. It’s all part of the process – try not to take it personally. A child will naturally have hopes and fantasies about the family, such as wanting you all to be reunited. Talking about these feelings, without raising false hopes, will help your child to move on. Being reassuring Children often feel they've done something wrong and that they are to blame for the breakup. Reassured them that they're not responsible and that, although the situation may be painful and difficult right now, you want to make things better for the future. Children are often afraid that if their parents loved each other before and now don't, they might stop loving them too. This fear can increase if there is a new partner or new children. Children feel more secure if they are reassured again and again that they are loved, and that although you and your partner feel differently about each other, you will continue to love and take care of them. Protecting them from your problems Children need to feel happy about enjoying the time they spend with the other parent. This can be hard, as they are often aware of the difficulties you are having. Reassure them that it's OK to love the parent who has left and avoid making them feel they should take sides. Hearing you criticise or blame the other parent can be extremely distressing for children. Avoid doing this in front of them so they don't feel burdened by information and details that they don't need to hear. To help your children to not feel guilty and responsible for the separation, it's especially important to avoid arguing in front of them. Keeping stability and a routine Sticking to a daily routine can help to keep other aspects of life as stable as possible. Try to wait before making any other big changes, like moving house or school, to avoid any further emotional and practical disruption. Encouraging children to see their friends, and keep up with hobbies or other activities, can help them keep some continuity in their lives. Some children may feel guilty about doing 'normal' things and having fun. Let them know it’s OK to do the things they usually enjoy. Children tend to do best when they are in a stable, predictable environment, and need to know that there are limits (limits they will sometimes test!). Being consistent can help a child to work through things more clearly. It will help if you and your ex-partner agree about discipline and are consistent in how this is carried out. Accepting support from others Finding people you can talk to and making sure you feel supported will help you avoid burdening your child with your emotional distress by confiding in them or relying on them for support. Children benefit from other people's support too. Grandparents or other family members can be an important support to both you and your children when they are worried. If teachers and other important adults in your child's life know about the separation, they can be more sensitive to your child too.
Article | children, child's best interest
What to say and what not to say
It is important to be accepting when communicating with your child rather than being dismissive. Below is a table of dismissing and accepting statements. Dismissing Accepting "You don't need to be angry. There's nothing to be scared about." Children do feel angry and scared when their parents split up. Acknowledge that this is how they feel. "Oh, come on. It's not that bad. Look at all the fun we're going to have together.Loads of people go through this and they don't feel like that: get over it!" "It looks like you're feeling worried. I'm happy to try talking about it with you -that might help." "You're overreacting." "It sounds like this is really making you sad." "There's nothing to worry about." "I understand that. Which parts of [whatever the worry is centred on, such as the separation or a house move] do you think will be difficult?" "No - that's not the right way to think about it." "That's an interesting thought. Can we try to see why you'd think that?" "You can't possibly wish for that!" "I can see why you might want that; let's think about how you see that working,or not working." The accepting statements do not make a judgement. The dismissing statements make a judgement, put down, or minimise the child's feelings and give the child the message that the feeling is not ok to have and should go away or be ignored. It is important to be accepting in these circumstances even if the child's wishes cannot in the end be met - at least they will have felt heard and understood. By listening you are not promising anything except to understand better. This will: Make it clearer for the child how to communicate effectively; Take into account the child feeling worries or scared; Shows how to talk with acceptance rather than being dismissive.
Article | Listening
Useful tips to spot how your child is feeling
Question Tip Can they put their feelings into words? If your child appears confused, suggest example feelings e.g. 'worried'. This can help them feel more in control, and allows you to get a better understanding of how they're processing your separation. It also gives you the opportunity to reassure them that what they’re feeling is normal. Does their body language give any clues about how they’re feeling? Your child's body language can offer you a better idea of how they’re feeling. For example, if they’re finding it difficult to look at you, they might be feeling nervous. When you're having a conversation with them about your separation, keep an eye on any changes in body language, like crossed arms, to identify if your child is struggling. Have they been acting differently, for example, misbehaving at school, or falling out with friends? This might mean that they’re finding it difficult to express distressing feelings about your separation. If you notice these changes in behaviour, it might be helpful to have a conversation with your child, and reassure them about how much you love them. Are they avoiding conversations about your separation? Again, this might be a clue that your child is not finding it easy to process your separation, and might need some help in expressing their feelings. Are they not responding to you? This is normal. Sometimes children want to talk to an independent person about their feelings, to avoid upsetting you. Contacting your GP, your child’s school counsellor, or other health professionals, can help if you think this might be the case. What to bear in mind Use open-ended, non-judgemental questions and accompany this with assurances of how you will listen to your child's answers.
Article | Listening
The importance of listening to your child
No matter how hard you try, children usually pick up on the negative feelings expressed by parents during their separation. This can make your child feel anxious or distressed. It is important that you listen to your child to ease as much of their worry as possible. Before you sit down with your child, it is important to acknowledge the negative feelings you have towards your partner, and set them aside. This way you can understand your child’s feelings better and respond in the best way for them. Here are three easy steps to help your child feel as comfortable as possible when talking about your separation: 1) Preparation Talking to your child about your ex-partner, before you understand how you feel, can be counter-productive. One way you can process your feelings is by writing them down, which can help you feel more in control. Another way could be having a conversation with a friend, family member, or professional. Remember that having negative feelings is normal, but you don’t want to influence the way your child thinks about their mum or dad. 2) Communication Staying calm is one of the most important things to remember when talking to your child. You don’t want them to feel like they can’t talk to you, or that they are part of the problem. Keeping your shoulders relaxed and breathing deeply can help. Keep in mind that your child might have a different viewpoint to you, and that you need to respect this. If they say something you don’t expect, try to react as little as possible, as responding negatively can stop them from talking about their worries or problems in the future. Try and let them talk as much as possible and help them by asking questions in response. Try to keep questions as neutral as possible. E.g. “Would you like to spend equal time with mummy and daddy?”, rather than, “You’d rather spend more time with me, wouldn’t you?” 3) Reassurance The final step is to end the conversation by reassuring your child. It is good to prepare what to say in advance, so that you don’t promise something you can’t deliver. Try to reassure them on things that you know will stay the same. For example, if they are worried that they might have to change school, but you know they won’t have to, use this as a reassurance. However, if spending lots of family time with both parents isn’t a possibility, don’t give them false hope.
Article | Listening
Mark's story – Part 1
“When my ex-wife and I divorced we were struggling to communicate and come to an agreement about child arrangements for our two sons. We entered into family court proceedings at the end of summer 2014 and the situation became even more difficult and stressful for all of us. I had spoken to a number of lawyers, and decided that I would only appoint a collaborative lawyer, or one who is a member of Resolution, an organisation that works to help people cooperate in a non-confrontational manner, avoiding inflammatory language, in order to achieve outcomes in the best interests of the children. They advised that calm negotiation achieves the best results and I hoped my ex-wife and I could resolve matters this way. I had also considered trying family mediation but the other party wrote to say that they did not want to follow this route. “Court proceedings became inevitable, and were both stressful and tiring. Soon after the first court order had been made I realised that there were some important arrangements which hadn’t been clarified in it, and unfortunately, they became contentious. These included agreeing what actions my ex-wife and I would take when the children were sick or off from school on inset training days, and also arrangements around indirect contact. Once again, we were unable to reach an agreement and had to go back to court to get a revised court order. “If I’d had access to the Parenting Plan back in the summer of 2014, before the first hearing, I believe my ex-wife and I would have been in a clearer, calmer position to sit down together and negotiate the child arrangements in the best interests of my sons. Perhaps we could have worked through the booklet together to agree arrangements that we were all happy with, avoiding the need for court proceedings. When I was sent the Parenting Plan by my Cafcass Officer, for completion before the court hearing, I went home and worked through it by myself, then took advice from my new partner and my parents, as a sense check. “I found it useful because it raised a number of questions which helped me to consider parenting situations and eventualities I might not have otherwise anticipated – exactly the reason why I had to return to court to amend the court order regarding my sons in the first place! The Parenting Plan prompts you to think about those situations that may arise where both parents need to make a decision together; for example, my ex-wife and I needed to talk when my eldest son was choosing his GCSE options. It also encourages forward planning: how might childcare dynamics change when new partners are introduced, as in my own case? “When you are in the thick of it, emotions run high and it is hard to see things clearly. Viewing my situation objectively and also taking the wishes and feelings of my ex-wife and children into consideration meant I was able to gather a sense of what we all really wanted, and also what seemed reasonable for all concerned. If you’re struggling to come to agreement, the Plan will help you take a step back from your situation and view it in its entirety so you can decide what is in the best interests of your children. I also believe that even if you try to complete the Plan with answers you think are “text book” or reasonable, that doesn’t matter; the fact that you are trying to rationalise and be self-aware is a really good thing. “Crucially, the Parenting Plan actually made me reconsider and revise the outcomes I sought to achieve for my family in the subsequent hearing. What’s more, it is completely free and available to anyone on the Cafcass website, irrespective of whether or not you have chosen to go down the route of court proceedings. It’s certainly a lot cheaper than spending thousands of pounds on solicitors’ fees! “In my opinion, the Parenting Plan should go hand in hand with the MIAM (Mediation Information Assessment Meeting) which is mandatory for both parties before they decide to enter family proceedings. It’s important that parents are willing to participate, negotiate and work together to decide on arrangements, whether filling out the Parenting Plan separately, or ideally together. “If we’d had this resource at the beginning of our separation, I believe my ex-wife and I would have been able to work amicably to agree on the best arrangements for our sons and we would have saved a lot of money, time and angst. Most importantly the strain of our separation on our boys could have also been far less.”
Article | Mark
Introduction to Getting It Right for Children
Do you know the best ways to stay calm and to make sure you listen as well as talk? Are you prepared to see things differently? Can you stop a discussion turning into an argument? When things get heated, most people struggle to keep their cool. Research shows that drawn-out disagreements between parents can make children feel stressed and unhappy, particularly when it’s obvious to them that something is going on.  What do I need to do? Making agreements can be hard. Sticking to them can be even harder! Practising communication and negotiation skills can help things go more smoothly, even if you and your child’s other parent have very different opinions and emotions are running high.  We've suggested a good place for you to start based on what you've told us already. In this section you can work on improving the way you communicate and negotiate. The skills you gain will help you work with your child's other parent to create and stick to your Parenting Plan. Most people find it helpful to go through the skills in order, so we'd recommend starting at the beginning, and going through the three sections in order: STOP TALK IT OUT WORK IT OUT The first step is usually to STOP arguing. This means staying calm, making sure you listen and being prepared to see things differently. The next step is to TALK IT OUT. Here, you will learn how to speak for yourself and the benefits of being clear and sticking to the rules.  The final step is to WORK IT OUT. This is where you bring it all together by looking at the best ways to negotiate when things are difficult.
Article | Course