Festive holidays: co-parenting do’s & don’ts
With the festive holidays approaching, expert family solicitor Rachel Pritchard shares a list of useful co-parenting do’s and don’ts to help you and your co-parent plan and arrange childcare over the school break.
- Do make child care arrangements early
A common approach between separated parents is for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day to be alternated between them each year. Alternatively, Christmas Day to be shared with one parent having the morning and the other the afternoon – although this arrangement may not suit every child or may not be possible due to logistics. I would strongly recommend that discussions should take place a while before the Christmas holidays begin.
- Do set a sensible schedule
Creating a schedule for the holidays is a useful way to help your child/children adjust to having separated parents. It is also beneficial as it gives you and your co-parent a framework from which you can build upon and organise your time.
When creating your schedule, it is important that you remain flexible. Remember that compromising doesn’t mean that you are sacrificing your time with your child/children but is instead a new way to be creative about how you share your time.
Try to ensure that there is a fair and equal amount of time spent with each parent to avoid any arguments and so that your child/children receive the benefit of quality time with each parent.
Whilst it is important to consider your children’s preferences in your schedule and include them in discussions and its organisation, if appropriate, it is up to you and your co-parent to agree the arrangements.
- Do be flexible
It is understandable that not everything will seem “fair” when organising childcare around the school holidays. You won’t always get the days you want when it comes to time with your children, and neither will your co-parent. Factors such as work commitments often dictate how childcare can be arranged. It is important for both parents to be considerate about each other’s work and other commitments. It is important to remain flexible and be willing to make compromises where necessary to ensure that the school break is pleasant for your children and runs smoothly.
- Do prioritise your children
When it comes to arranging childcare during the school holidays it is vital that the focus remains on what is best for your child/children.
If your children are old enough consider discussing your co-parenting plan with them and asking whether they have any preferences. Remember, your child/children’s preferences isn’t a reflection of who their preferred parent is, it is instead a collaborative way of asking how they would like to spend their holidays and enable open communication.
- Don’t change the schedule last minute.
If you have developed a schedule with your co-parent’s behaviour which affects your child/children, do not stay silent. Open communication is essential when it comes to co-parenting and is vital for your child/children’s development.
Finger-pointing and accusing is not healthy and is unlikely to get positive results. Instead when trying to communicate with your co-parent make your child/children the focal point of the conversation e.g., “When the children come home, I notice they _____. Any ideas on what we can do about that?” – this way you’re not suggesting anyone is to blame, but you are offering to communicate on the issue.
- Don’t transfer negative emotions.
It is important whilst organising childcare during the holidays to not transfer any of your negative feelings about your co-parent onto your children. The ending of your relationship is not your child/children’s fault and the adjustment of a new two-family reality may be difficult enough for them to deal with. What they need the most from both you and your co-parent is love and support and not negativity.
- Don’t transfer negative feelings about co-parent onto your child/children.
- Don’t use your child/children as a means to get back at your co-parent or as way to manipulate or collect information.
- Don’t put pressure on your child/children to take sides.
Expert family legal advice
If you find sharing childcare during the holidays, or any other time, difficult and are in a situation where you cannot agree on childcare arrangements, we can help you try and resolve matters. Our family lawyers specialise in assisting parents to reach an agreement with their co-parent, where they are unable to do so directly. This may involve referring them to mediation, which is a way of resolving disputes without involving the Courts.