- One Family supports children to have contact with both of their parents if it is safe for them to do so. We know it can be very challenging but often for children it can benefit them greatly to know they have two parents who can and want to care for them.
- What age children stay over with the contact parent from raises great debate for the families we work with. The best way to judge this is to look at the relationship your child has with their other parent. Has the other parent lived with them since birth? Are they familiar with the other parent getting them ready for bed and bathing them? Is your child emotionally attached to the other parent? If the answer is generally yes, then most likely your child will do well on sleepovers, once they settle into a routine with the other parent.
- If you have a new born, it is often felt that for the baby it can cause great anxiety if they are separated from a main caregiver. Mums are hugely important in this stage of development. That is not to take from the value of the father’s role, but separation anxiety at this young age can have lasting impacts on children.
- For children who are of school age, toilet trained, talking and able to express themselves to some extent, overnights can work out fine. Often they are anxious about the parent they leave behind. It is important to let your child know that you support them to have a relationship with both of their parents. Assure them that you are fine when they are not at home and that you will look forward to seeing them when they come back.
- Older children (12+) need to have a voice around contact plans. At this stage of development they are keen to spend time with friends and social gatherings. Not wanting to go on contact is nothing to do with either parent usually; it is more often about your young teen wanting to have their needs met. Allow young teens some space to voice their needs and support good contact around this. At this age, it is all about making ‘dates’ to see your children.
- Flexibility is the key to good shared parenting. Although you may have a clear plan detailing contact arrangements, children will change over time. Even if a child is unwell or something happens in school or in the family, this can affect how they feel about contact on any given day or week. Try not to get upset if your child doesn’t want to go on contact sometimes. It can, of course, be very hard not to see your child, but maybe the plans can be adjusted – a shorter visit such as just going for something to eat or, if your relationship is stable enough, inviting the other parent to come along for an hour.
- Try not to see contact as your time with your child, but your child’s time with you. Any contact is better than no contact, unless it is not safe for children. The quality of interaction with your child is what makes the difference in a good parent-child relationship.
- Be flexible with the other parent. Allow things to be a little free. Children will have family events and occasions with friends that they don’t want to miss. Try not to cause your child to miss out on things that are important to them, because you want to own the contact time.
- It is very important that both parents are on time for contact – both dropping off and collecting. However, things can and do happen. Try to remain calm and not to see this as an insult to you, as often nothing is meant by it. Encourage the other parent to keep to clearly agreed times so that you and your children are not anxiously waiting.
- Build up contact slowly for children. Start off with short stays and fun things and then move more into normal parenting things in the home. Increase the time slowly until you have reached a schedule that works well for the child and the parents. Be open to allowing your child good contact. It can be very hard to part from your child at any time, but try to believe the other parent loves them too and trust that they will care for the child as well as you do in their own way.
LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic or any parenting issue on Tuesday 25 August at 5.45pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.