The summer holidays are coming up and those in the unenviable position of going through separation or divorce will know how hard keeping child contact amicable can be.
What is Child Contact?
Divorce or separation is hard for everyone involved as it brings changes that parents, children, and extended family can find difficult to adjust to and therefore causes undue stress and anxiety. One of these changes is child contact which is the decision on how often the child will see the non-resident parent. This can be especially problematic during the holidays. A child contact agreement assists parents in providing a loving, stable, caring, and safe environment for their children, in line with their age and needs. You should only restrict contact where it is necessary to protect the interests of the child.
Making child contact work
The summer holidays are generally a time when families can gather, and enjoy each other’s company on a holiday. In the financial year ending 2021 it is estimated that there were 2.3 million separated families in Great Britain and 3.6 million children in those separated families. It can sometimes be difficult for these families who must make child contact arrangements. Here are 10 things you should do to make child contact work.
Enjoy the time you have to spend with your child
Make the most of your time with your children during the holidays. Spend quality time having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Do not use the time your children spend with your ex as a bargaining tool.
Keep disagreements away from the children
There are many reasons disagreements may arise between parents over child contact agreements. As the resident parent, you may feel resentful of your ex-partner spending time with the children. Alternatively, as the non-resident parent, you may feel resentful of your ex-partner when they are with your children. It’s important to share those feelings with another adult and not your child. Your child can pick up on the negative feelings and feel guilty, confused, and torn between their parents. Additionally, don’t criticise your ex-partner to your child because of disagreements.
Stick to agreements
Once an agreement has been made, it’s important both parents stick to it. For example, being on time to pick up your child and picking your child up on the right day your agreement states you can have contact.
Maintain effective communication
Maintaining communication helps to avoid arguments and ensures the contact agreement is effective. For example, heavy traffic may cause you to be late to pick up your child or you may need to change the plans you had made for the day. Effective communication means your ex-partner would be aware of this and actions can be taken to resolve it without anger or confusion.
Make fair and flexible contact arrangements for holidays and special occasions
Special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and holidays are difficult for parents and their children after divorce or separation. These occasions and traditions would have been spent together as a family. This makes it difficult to adjust to child contact agreements in these periods. There are multiple ways to make contact agreements fair and flexible.
Prepare and organise child contact
Making a list of school holiday dates and when you need childcare helps make child contact agreements in advance. Early planning and arrangements enable parents to avoid disagreements and subsequent hostility which can arise as a result of having to make quick and hasty decisions on child contact. Also, ensure the children know these planned dates in advance so they feel they can contribute to the plans. It may make them feel better if they’re able to become involved in the decision-making and choose activities they want to do and pick places they want to go. As a result, the children should feel more at ease during the transition stages from one home to another.
Be realistic about the contact arrangements you ask for
As the non-resident parent, you should be realistic about the contact arrangements you ask for. You should consider your circumstances and respect what the resident parent is willing or able to deliver. It’s important both parents see the situation from each other’s perspective and show an understanding of decisions made regarding contact.
Ensure the well-being of your child during the holidays
The well-being of your children during the holidays is important as they are adjusting to not spending time with both their parents as a family. It’s especially difficult if there are family traditions they’ll miss out on as a result of the divorce or separation. Talking with them and asking them how they feel should make you and your child feel better. Also, asking them who they want to spend time with and allowing them to participate in the decision-making should help them deal with how they are feeling.
Taking your child on holiday or for a short break
If your child goes on holiday with your ex during the holidays, it’s easy to feel anxious and worried. It’s important that there is clear communication between both parents over important information such as itineraries and contact details. Ensuring communication is ongoing with your ex-partner through texts and phone calls whilst on holiday should put them at ease.
Seek legal guidance
If you feel you and your ex-partner are unable to reach a child contact agreement you may need to seek legal guidance. Our family department can help you put a mutually agreed plan in place to help remove uncertainty and set expectations for both parents. It’s important to remember the success of the plan is dependent on both parents respecting what has been jointly decided.