When relationships break down the greatest challenge is getting past the conflict and moving on. As parents, we must remember that our children always come first. This can be hard to see when you are trying to plan for a big occasion. Many parents need ongoing support to help them to agree on parenting issues. For big events in your child’s life it can be helpful to engage with a mediator well in advance to help ensure the day and the months leading up to it can run smoothly. Special occasions in a child’s life are often the most dreaded days for people who are sharing parenting. For many young children the excitement is taken away from such events and replaced with the worry of how their parents will get on or reach an agreement. Children may be inclined to say they don’t mind any plans offered to them as they know they will hurt one parent by objecting or agreeing.
As parents, we must remember that our children’s needs come first. It is important that we remind ourselves that we want these events to be a positive memory for our children. How can we make them a positive experience? How do we help our children get truly excited about them? Here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy these special occasions with your child:
- It is your child’s day, not your day. Ask your child what they would like to do. Be open to hearing what they are saying and then start planning.
- Children need to feel that it is safe for them to express their opinions. At times they choose to go along with their parent’s wishes as they were met with conflict when expressing their own opinion in the past. It is important that we try to reassure our children that it is safe to be honest with us.
- Talk with children about the plans; ask if they are happy with them. If not, ask them what they are not happy with and discuss how things can be changed.
- Ensure the other parent is fully aware of the plan for the day. Try to meet with them several months in advance to share your ideas and reach agreement.
- Although you may have a new partner, do not displace the role of the biological parent on the day. As many churches have limited space, parents should be first counted for the seat. It is important the step parents and partners respect this.
- Try to be generous with the other parent as these events last all day. Remember to share the ceremonies, as they only happen once, and then share the day. For some families this will mean a joint event, for others the day will be split.
- Involve extended family. Having a joint celebration can be great and it is great when parents can set aside their differences to do this. Ensure that all members of the family are told that the day is not about the separation, but about the child. Special days are not the appropriate time to bring up family issues.
- Ideally both parents will have a part in the preparations. Sometimes one parent seeks the other to pay for the costs involved but they do not want to share the experience. This is not fair. Arranging a day for everyone to go out to buy the gift or the clothes could be a great way to include all parties in the process. Try to trust each other and remain conscious of your child’s needs.
- At times it will not be possible to involve both parents in the child’s life. Talk with children about this and explain it to be them carefully. Often these are occasions that children start to question their identity, where they came from and why their family is the way it is. Support them to feel pride in their family unit and help them to understand the diversity of families.
- Enjoy the day. One successful day with your child and the other parent can really give you the confidence to do it again.
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.
LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Monday 8 June from 11am-12pm on NEW One Family Parenting Group. Join in and post your question.
Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Successful Shared Parenting
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.