Breaking up is hard to do. Even when it’s amicable and following a collaborative approach. And when children are involved, it’s always harder.
In the backdrop of no-fault divorce and the increased interest in the collaborative approach, there is a noticeable and welcome shift in childcare arrangements. Parents are moving away from the ‘mum gets the kids and dad sees them every other weekend’ patterns of the last few decades. For many that can be emotionally charged because it’s hard to share your children. But what we need to remember is that it’s harder for them if they don’t see both of their parents.
Working together to decide on a care pattern that works for everyone can be difficult because it means you actively have to put into practice not seeing your children. This can drive all sorts of emotional responses that are based in fear. But we need to remind ourselves to see the bigger picture and that’s all about enabling your children to grow up safely, with stability and with the knowledge that they have both their parents actively in their lives.
At The Co-Parent Way, the UK’s only dedicated co-parent coaching practice, we work with parents to help them manage their emotions and give them the skills to communicate effectively with each other, so they can make plans and decisions such as care patterns, without it escalating into conflict.
Where your child spends their time is dependent on a number of things, including the geography of where both parents live.
Living within 45 minutes of each other
The most common arrangement
One of the most common arrangement patters we see is every other weekend with each parent. Ideally a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, (if school drops can be managed easily on Monday mornings) and also one or two nights in the week. Remember homework will need to be managed too as well as after school clubs, so make sure that you can both accommodate this.
Week on / Week off
Some parents manage a week on and a week off. This can be a nice clean approach to co-parenting, but it’s not for everybody. Many find it too hard to go for a week without seeing their child. This approach works well when communication is not an issue, so children can maintain contact with their other parent during the week via facetime. Many parents who don’t communicate use this approach and this effectively becomes parallel or shared parenting. Remember, a week is a long time, especially for a young child.
A 3-4 split
This is a trickier one to navigate because of weekends. And it always looks different from month to month, but if your children can get their heads round it and they can see and they know where they are going to be from one week to the next then it can be managed.
Fortnightly 1: Monday – Thursday (parent one) Thursday – Sunday (parent two)
Fortnightly 2: Thursday – Sunday (parent one) Monday – Thursday (parent two)
And once a month it works out that both parents will have a full week with the kids. It can be helpful to keep a tracker on your fridge so your child can easily see where they are going to be and when. Managing school uniforms, PE kits and books as well as your work and diary can be challenging with this split. But when it works, it can be fantastic for children and parents.
Living further away.
Living in the same country.
It depends how far away you live, but aiming for every other weekend, with two evenings a week minimum to speak to the parent who they are not with is a good benchmark. Parents in this scenario often use the school holidays to supplement the time with the children for the parent who isn’t the primary carer. Remember as the primary carer, it’s also important for you to have holiday time with your children.
Living in different countries.
For parents who live in different countries video calling and interactive platforms have become a game changer. It means that being in touch with your children who are far away from you can be more meaningful and more ‘every-day’. School holidays become really important in this scenario as do trips made by the ‘away’ parent and the child to see each other.
The thing to remember is try not to restrict the contact with the other parent. It’s your choice that you are divorcing, not your child’s.
If you’re finding co-parenting hard visit www.thecoparentway.com for lots of free resources and guides. For expert help you can take our on-demand course which will give you many practical and easy to use tools to help you communicate, reduce conflict, set boundaries and improve decision making.
Get in touch if you want to talk more
Marcie Shaoul is the founder of The Co-Parent Way coaching methodology for separating parents. She is considered to be a thought leader on co-parenting.