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Parenting | Supporting teens when their other parent leaves the country

girl-863686_1920Telling a teenager that their parent is moving away to another country is a big challenge. Explaining this to a teenage child is very hard for the parent who is living with them. In my experience, there are very few teenagers that cope well with one parent leaving and moving far away when they have been engaged in parenting, at some level, for a number of years.

How can you support your teenager to cope with such hurt, confusion and pain as this age? Here are ’10 ways’ to support yourself and your teenager during this time:

  1. Supporting your teen starts with looking after your own needs. You may feel very isolated and overwhelmed with the task of parenting alone. It may generate old feelings of hurt and grief from the separation. Whatever it raises for you needs to be dealt with. Explore your support networks. Talking about your feelings is important to support you to understand and explore what you need to do next. If you can’t get support from friends and family then it may be time to seek professional support through counselling or parent mentoring.
  2. When you have reflected on your own feelings you can then reflect on what your teen’s needs. You know your teen best. Every teen will respond differently to a parent moving away. Creating the space to talk with them about how they feel is crucial. We can presume we know a lot about our children but often we get small details wrong; it is the small details that make the big difference. Just like us, teenagers don’t  necessarily want someone to fix things but they do want someone to listen. Just hear what they are saying and acknowledge it. Thank them for telling you how they feel.
  3. Think about what their needs are, based on what they told you. What needs are left unmet as a result of their other parent moving away? What needs can you meet? It may seem very overwhelming, trying to meet all of these needs on your own. But again this is the time to look at what supports exist in your life, from family and friends to schools and clubs. You don’t have to do this alone. Let others in and allow them to offer support.
  4. Teenagers can feel great rejection and hurt that their parent has left. They can start to think that maybe the parent always wanted to leave. If conflict was an issue ongoing in the relationship they may feel it was the reason the parent left them. They will need reassurance that this is not the case.
  5. Keep talking and acknowledge how the change is difficult. Let them see what you are doing to try and cope with the change. It is okay to show how we, as parents, are feeling. Our children learn when they see how we cope. Coping mechanisms are what get us through life.
  6. Accept that some teens may blame you, the parent who is caring for them, and appear to worship the parent who has left, seeing no wrong in what they do. They may also wish that they could go and live with the other parent. This is normal.
  7. Although you are the key person in meeting their needs, your teen is also getting to a stage when they have to learn that they are also responsible for meeting their own needs. Help them explore what steps they can take to help themselves.
  8. Plan things together to support each other. Make dates with each other when you can share thoughts and feelings or simply spend some time together.
  9. Be patient and calm with your teen. Give them more hugs than ever. Just because they may be bigger than you don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t need a hug, they need them more than ever.
  10. Remember, you can move through this transition but you need to be there for each other. Acknowledge how you feel and acknowledge how your child feels even when you can do absolutely nothing to change it.

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 on 01 662 9212.

 

Parenting | Establishing family rituals

rope-1469244_1920A family ritual, or tradition, is a practice within a family that has special meaning to family members. Family rituals provide a sense of belonging and continuity. They bring families closer together. It is often hard in our day and age to escape the pressures and daily stresses that make up our lives but having rituals creates an opportunity for children to feel secure. Family routines and rituals not only improve family relationships, they also improve health and emotional well being, particularly for children.

As part of of our ‘10 Ways to‘ weekly series of parenting tips, here are some ideas to help you develop family rituals and traditions for your family.

  1. Think simple, not extravagant. An example of a simple and easy ritual is to eat together at least once every week.
  2. Set aside time each week. Create a time where you and your children can be together to play.
  3. Create your own special activity. For weekends, birthdays or celebrations, decide with the family how you really enjoy celebrating these occasions and go with that.
  4. Include your children in the planning.
  5. Create rituals that are meaningful to the whole family.
  6. Be different. Don’t be afraid to start a new or different kind of family tradition.
  7. Celebrate success. Acknowledge achievement within the family.
  8. Don’t be a perfectionist. There’s no need to stress if it does not work out exactly the way you envisaged and planned.  Things go wrong sometimes. A sense of bonding between the members involved is still created.
  9. Create a Family Event Jar. A family jar or box is a decorated jar used to save for the next big adventure. Decorate it with pictures and words of places you want to visit or have visited, or activities you enjoy. The jar becomes a daily visual reminder for all family members of something to look forward to.
  10. Rituals and traditions are something for all family member to enjoy together. Don’t fight your natural inclinations. You probably won’t stick with a tradition that isn’t working for all members of the family.

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 on 01 662 9212.

 

Parenting | How to guide your teen in a part-time job

man-439040_1280Getting a job as a teenager is like taking on an extra subject, one that cannot be taught in school. Real learning about the world, and the people in it, can come from getting a job. If teens are working with the public they will learn to listen to and respect strangers. They learn that they cannot say what they want or they may be sacked. A part-time job will teach your teen to be self-motivated. When they go to college or into the world of work they will know how to cope. The teen years are the time to start training them to use time wisely. They must start deciding how best to use their time for study, work and socialising. It can all fit.

Here are ’10 ways to’ guide your teen in a job:

  1. Usually after Junior Cert the time for a part-time job has arrived. There is something out there for every teen.
  2. Support them to find the right job for them.
  3. Your teen must commit to and be responsible for the job they take on. Mum or Dad cannot pick up the pieces when they do not show up for work. A note into the boss will not be permitted.
  4. If your teen cannot make it into work they should call to explain their absence themselves or they have to organise someone else to cover the shift. They have to acknowledge they are letting others down.
  5. Parents should never get involved in workplace issues.
  6. When issues do arise, support your teen to talk it out. Help them to explore options around resolving workplace issues. They will learn so much about life and grow with great confidence from doing this.
  7. If they struggle to manage a part-time job, along with other activities and social time, then perhaps their energy levels need to be looked at. You will have some work to do with them around capacity building.
  8. You may think they will be sacked the very first week but encourage them to learn from any mistakes and to keep going.
  9. During the school term, it is possible to study and to work and try not to pretend they can’t. The highest achievers out there are usually the busiest of people.
  10. Believe in your teen and they will believe in their own abilities. It is not about earning at the end of the day (although that has its charm), it is about learning survival skills and gaining self awareness.

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 on 01 662 9212.

Parenting | Shared Parenting at Christmas

Santa high fiveChristmas doesn’t have to be a difficult time for parents who do not live together and share parenting of their child. There are, of course, things that will need to be worked out.  Agree your plan as soon as possible to help ensure a happy, fun-filled Christmas for all members of the family, centered around your child. Read on for this week’s parenting tips which explore how parents can achieve successful shared parenting over the Christmas season.

  1. Start thinking it through and planning now.
  2. Plan with your child. Talk with your child about Christmas and explain to them that it lasts for more than one day.
  3. Tell them that both you and their other parent love them and enjoy time with them at Christmas. Ask your child how they would like Christmas to look. Talk with them about the options available.
  4. Try to hear your child in this. Most parents prefer to have their child with them on Christmas Day, and in many separated families it is not possible. See Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day all as Christmas. You will have to agree if each year one of you has the children with them on the 25thand the other parent has them on the 24thor 26th.
  5. Talk with your child’s other parent. Ask them what they hope Christmas will look like and then start to negotiate on contact. Use assertive communication skills. Try not to jump in with a ‘no’ straight away to what they hope for. Think of your child’s needs and how best you can both meet them. Don’t have these discussions in front of your child.
  6. Children love Christmas – if they don’t have parents arguing over them. All the gifts in the world won’t help if your child is distressed or worried. Talk and plan in advance and avoid conflict. Give each other space to think about what the other parent wants, then talk again about your shared plans.
  7. Explain to your child what will happen and that you and the other parent will try your best to ensure they have the Christmas they hope for. Make sure your child has the information they need in advance.
  8. Children are not going to object to two Christmases. Santa can leave gifts in both homes. Santa knows, of course, that some children have two homes. Families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
  9. Talk about buying the gifts early on. Both parents usually want to be involved in this. Can each of you buy your own gifts from your child’s list and agree to give them on the one day or over two days? Often children get too much on the 25th – maybe they would appreciate receiving the gifts more spread out. Children need to share the excitement with both parents.
  10. If you need help to communicate with each other, seek professional support from services such as One Family’s Mediated Parenting Plans or Parent Mentoring services so you can make plans for a Christmas that everyone can look forward to.

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.

Join Geraldine on Facebook on this and other parenting topics for a weekly Q&A live in our 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.

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 us.

Supporting a step parent relationship150x150

Parenting | 10 Ways to Support a Child in a Step Parent Relationship

Supporting a step parent relationship250x250Having a step parent is a very normal part of life for many children in Ireland today. Often children hear about step mothers in fairy tales and the picture painted is not one that would excite you. In order for children to have a good relationship with a step parent they need to be supported in the following ways:

  1. While it may not be your ideal situation that your child has a step parent, in order for them to feel safe and secure in the relationship you must give them permission to have a relationship with this person.
  2. Many parents can feel that a step parent may try to take over their role. This can lead to the parent fighting against the relationship and making life somewhat more difficult for their child. If you can be confident in your relationship with your child then there is no need to worry about anyone trying to take your place.
  3. Remember that children need adults and good positive relationships in their lives. The step parent, if allowed, can be a very supportive person for your child. If they are spending periods of time with this person then they need to be able to talk with them, share worries and seek support. The biological parent most likely won’t always be there, so the more people around to support your children the better.
  4. Try to form a relationship of respect with the step parent. It can be very hard for children to have a good relationship with someone they don’t see their parent engage positively with. Talk with your child’s other parent about how you can both take steps to ensure the relationship with the step parent is one based on respect. In the case of infidelity, this can be very difficult, but we must always try to think about the best interests of our children.
  5. Allow your child to talk about their time with the other parent and the step parent. Acknowledge what they do with your child. Try to say positive things about the step parent. By not talking about them at all you are very clearly letting your child know you have no time for them.  Ask yourself, is this fair on your child considering they have to live with the step parent part of the time?
  6. It might be nice to arrange for all of the parents, step and biological to go out once or twice with the children. Blended families are a common feature in Irish society. Children can and do have wonderful experiences in blended families.
  7. As family life moves on after separation and step parents become a more permanent part of your child’s life try to accept them fully and acknowledge with your child the part that the step parent plays in their life.
  8. Remember the other parent may be the first one to introduce a step parent to your child, but in time you could also be with someone new. What type of relationship would you like your child to have with your new partner?
  9. If the step parent also has children, then your child has more to deal with. When sharing time with the other parent your child will need your support to explore how they want to engage with the other children who live with them. Is it okay for them to be good friends? They will need to learn the rules of sibling rivalry if they have not any biological siblings. They may also need support around sharing their parent with other children. This may be hard for them if they already feel they don’t have enough time with that parent.
  10. Good stable adult relationships are very valuable for your child to witness and be part of. It can offer your child great stability and help to build up their  confidence. It is really good for children to see their parents in good positive relationships. Part of life is learning that not every relationship is good and not every relationship lasts forever but it should not stop you from engaging with people and giving new relationships a chance.

Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Sensitive Integration of a Step Parent 

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 Tuesday 7 July from 11am-12pm 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.

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 support@onefamily.ie.

 

 

School Tours

Parenting | 10 Ways to Prepare For School Tours

School ToursSchool tours can be a time of great excitement for many children and one of dread for many parents. The cost may be one issue, but especially for those with younger children it may be the first time you have allowed anyone take your child on a day out. It is ok to feel anxious about placing your trust in the childcare team to take good care of your little ones. Managing your own anxieties is the key to supporting your child to go on these trips with ease.

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Children are very sensitive to our tone of voice, even if we are saying something positive; if our tone is nervous our children will pick up on it.
  3. Talk with the school to check out the details of the trip. Where they are going? What bus is taking them? Does it have seat belts? How many adults are supervising? What is the missing child policy/accident policy? Having this information can help you to stay calm and not fear the worst.
  4. School trips are a great way for children to build up their confidence. Even if you are worried, tell them it is ok for you to worry a little, but that you trust them.
  5. As parents, it is important that we let our children know that we trust them to be responsible. Give them some examples of how they have already shown that they can make good choices. This will reinforce their confidence.
  6. Remind them of the key rules: stay with your friends, no wondering off, wear your seat belt and listen to the teacher. When children come home from the trip take the opportunity to praise them for being so brave and responsible.
  7. Each year the trips get easier, especially during primary school years. When the overseas trips come up in secondary school you may be back to square one again.
  8. Remember how responsible your child can be. Trust that children/teenagers do make good choices every day. This is your guide to allowing them take the next step of overseas trips. We have to remember to stay calm, see the advantages these trips give to your child and use it as time to recognise how much they are growing up and how capable they are becoming.
  9. Talk with your children about the trips, children like detail as much as adults do. Young children may want to know about practical things such as; where will the toilet will be? What they will do if they have an accident of any sort? To help ease these worries, pack the bag with them so they know what they have e.g. change of clothes, food, drinks, tissues etc.
  10. If you are feeling very anxious you are probably not the only one. Try talking to other parents that morning and do something together to help distract you from the worry. This may be a good opportunity to form new friendships and support networks.

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 15 June from 11am-12pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group. Join in to post your questions and share your experiences.

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Keep Your Child Safe When Out and About

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 support@onefamily.ie.

Family Situation

Talking to Your Child About Your Family Situation

Family Situation2015 is shaping up to be a big year for children’s rights, especially with regard to Family Law. Children are now being placed at the centre of legislation that directly affects them and their parents. Talking about your family situation can be difficult especially if you, as a parent, are struggling to cope yourself. Here are a few tips to help you to open a dialogue with your children and ease them  into a secure understanding  of their family.

  1. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to know about both biological parents.
  2. Parents need to explain their family situation to their children in a way that fosters respect for the other parent and allows children to feel positively about their family.
  3. Being able to talk to a child positively about their family situation allows trust to develop between a parent and a child.
  4. Both parents have rights and with those rights come responsibilities to ensure that parents meet the child’s best interests.
  5. According to Irish law, access (to parents) is the right of the child.
  6. Be truthful with children and answer questions in a way that is respectful to the other parent and age appropriate to the child.
  7. If you live with your parents and they behave like parents to your child then be honest about the real nature of the relationship.
  8. If a new partner is like a parent to your child be truthful about the real nature of the relationship.
  9. Use and create opportunities for talking about your family situation.
  10. Start early and be prepared to add information as your children get older. Children are well able for the truth, they often want the facts to help them understand and feel less vulnerable.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming up Next Week: 10 ways to Parent Through Stressful Times.

LIVE Facebook Q&A on this topic with Geraldine, 9 March from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook pageJoin in and post your questions.

Next you might like to read: 10 ways to Support Grandparents Relationships With Your Child, 10 ways to Nurture Your Role As A Step Parent or 10 ways to Explain An Absent Parent.

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 support@onefamily.ie.

Child Contact Centre

We’ve only had Divorce for 18 years – is that why we don’t deal with it well?

Press Release 

We’ve only had Divorce for 18 years –

is that why we don’t deal with it well?

(Dublin, Friday 27 February 2015) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating – reflects today on the 18 years since divorce legislation came into effect in Ireland on 27 February 1997. The passing of the Referendum on Divorce almost twenty years ago was a groundbreaking acknowledgment of the reality that families in Ireland exist in many forms and that marriage cannot always be forever despite best intentions.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “In 2013, Ireland had the lowest divorce rate in the EU at 0.6 per 1,000 of the population. We have the third lowest rate of divorce in the world despite fears voiced 18 years ago that the legalisation heralded the end of the family, while the rate of marriage and civil partnership is on the rise. The fact is that relationships do end, couples do separate. Sometimes they are parents too. What is important is that they are supported to separate well. Research shows that it is not family form that impacts on a child’s outcomes, but the quality of their relationships at home. Parental conflict has more adverse effects on children than parental separation.”

Karen continues: “With the right supports, parents can separate well, resolve conflict, manage finances, and ensure their children remain at the centre of parenting. No-one sets out to separate or divorce, especially as a parent, and it is often a very difficult time for all members of the family, with feelings of fear, anger or blame as a backdrop.  Service providers, the family law courts, and Government policy should be focussed on the provision of vital and affordable, services to support people to separate well, like One Family’s counselling, parent mentoring, and mediation services, which are still lacking in many areas around the country due to a lack of funding.”

“We know from working with parents going through separation and divorce that the process of obtaining a divorce is extremely costly and due to the law, requires an incredibly long time which can be destructive to families. The newly introduced Children and Family Relationships Bill will go some way to reforming family law courts but a lot more is needed,” Karen concludes.

People experiencing separation or divorce can call the askonefamily helpline on lo-call 1890 662 212 for information and support, or to find out more about One Family’s services for parents who are separating.  These include parent mentoring, mediated parenting plans, and programmes and workshops such as Impact of Parental Separation and Making Shared Parenting Work, details of which can be found here.

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About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those separating, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 2212, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

 

Shadow hands

One-Parent Family Helpline Calls Increase by 30% in 2014

Press Release

One-Parent Family Helpline Calls Increase by 30% in 2014

Families Just One Bill Away from Disaster

www.onefamily.ie

(Dublin, Monday 22 December 2014) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone and sharing parenting – has recorded a staggering 30% increase in first time callers to its askonefamily helpline to date in 2014, with a marked increase in calls from working parents precariously balanced on the verge of homelessness or newly experiencing separation.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “The continued poverty of one-parent families in Ireland today is simply not acceptable. We are hearing from parents who are living on a knife edge; worried constantly about the basics such as food, heating and keeping a roof over their children’s heads. We have heard from parents who themselves do not eat an evening meal so that their children can, and from those needing to attend local food banks for the first time; mothers who get up at 5am to avail of reduced rate electricity to iron their children’s school uniforms; fathers who ration a bag of coal – often their only source of heating – into daily allowances. Many hundreds of families are living under the constant threat of homelessness, just one bill away from disaster. They survive week to week and planning for the future is a luxury they do not have.”

“The majority of these new askonefamily callers are working lone parents, low or middle income earners. While 53% of people parenting alone are in the labour market, one-parent families consistently have the lowest disposable income out of all households in the state and experience the highest rates of deprivation,” Karen continues. “Government’s activation measures from Budget 2012 are now being phased in with over 39,000 lone parents being moved to Jobs Seekers Transitional next year. They will no longer be eligible for the One-Parent Family Payment. Owing to their parenting responsibilities, many lone parents with young children must opt for part-time work but now we are hearing from many that they will no longer be able to afford to work. For a lone parent doing all he or she can to make a difference for their family, in an economy that we are hearing every day is now out of recession – and in this 20th anniversary year of UN International Year of the Family – this is shocking.”

One Family’s askonefamily helpline is also hearing more from parents who are now experiencing separation. Most tell us that years of stress and worry about household finances, combined with a lack of or reduced employment and income, have contributed to the end of their relationship. These families need specialist supports to enable them to separate well, establish shared parenting plans and keep their children at the centre of parenting. One Family offers relevant supports but Government needs to ensure accessibility in all parts of the country to appropriate services.

As evidenced by this increase of callers to askonefamily, the real impact of years of austerity is only now truly coming to the fore.  Many one-parent families who were already living in consistent poverty are now barely managing to keep their family homed. More and more couples are separating, creating new one-parent or shared parenting families. Yet one-parent families in working poverty and parents sharing parenting of their children have borne the brunt of spending cuts such as the changes to the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit last year, and the ill-formed re-activation measures flagged in Budget 2012.

Government must recognise and respond to this reality for so many of Ireland’s families. One Family reiterates its call to Government to enact its 10 Solutions campaign, with an immediate focus on provision of long-promised, affordable and accessible quality local childcare.  Every parent should have an equal opportunity to create a better future for his or her children, and all children deserve that.

For further information on One Family’s 10 Solutions, click here.

The askonefamily helpline can be contacted on lo call 1890 66 22 12 or by email to support@onefamily.ie.

/Ends.

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 62 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

Further Information/Scheduling

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 664 0124 / e: schance@onefamily.ie

 

Christmas Candles

10 Ways to Achieve Successful Shared Parenting Over Christmas

Christmas Candles 150x150Christmas doesn’t have to be a difficult time for parents who do not live together and share parenting of their child. There are, of course, things that will need to be worked out. What is most important is to do this well in advance, agreeing to solutions and a plan. Agree your plan now in November, to help ensure a happy, fun-filled Christmas for all members of the family, centered around your child. Read on for this week’s parenting tips which explore how parents can achieve successful shared parenting over the Christmas season.

  1. Start thinking it through and planning now.
  2. Plan with your child. Talk with your child about Christmas and explore with them that it lasts for more than one day.
  3. Tell them that both you and their other parent love them and enjoy time with them at Christmas. Ask your child how they would like Christmas to look. Talk with them about the options available.
  4. Try to hear your child in this. Most parents prefer to have their child with them on Christmas Day, and in many separated families it is not possible. See Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day all as Christmas. You will have to agree if each year one of you has the children with them on the 25th and the other parent has them on the 24th or 26th.
  5. Talk with your child’s other parent. Ask them what they hope Christmas will look like and then start to negotiate on contact. Use assertive communication skills. Try not to jump in with a no straight away to what they hope for. Think of your child’s needs and how best you can both meet them. Don’t have these discussions in front of your child.
  6. Children love Christmas – if they don’t have parents arguing over them. All the gifts in the world won’t help if your child is distressed or worried. Talk and plan in advance and avoid conflict. Give each other space to think about what the other parent wants, then talk again about your shared plans.
  7. Explain to your child what will happen and that you and the other parent will try your best to ensure they have the Christmas they hope for. Make sure your child has the information they need in advance.
  8. Children are not going to object to two Christmases. Santa can leave gifts in both homes. Santa knows, of course, that some children have two homes. Families comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
  9. Talk about buying the gifts early on. Both parents usually want to be involved in this. Can each of you buy your own gifts from your child’s list and agree to give them on the one day or over two days? Often children get too much on the 25th – maybe they would appreciate receiving the gifts more spread out. Children need to share the excitement with both parents.
  10. If you need help to communicate with each other, seek professional support from services such as One Family’s Mediated Parenting Plans or Parent Mentoring services so you can make plans for a Christmas that everyone can look forward to.

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Successful Shared Parenting.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming soon: 10 Ways to Explain an Absent Parent and 10 Ways to Nurture Your Role as a Stepparent.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on shared parenting over Christmas on Monday 10 November from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your questions.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email support@onefamily.ie.