Breaking up is tough, even when it’s amicable and collaborative. And when children are involved, it’s always harder.
Where it’s a no-fault divorce and there’s a desire from both parents to work together, we’ve seen a noticeable and welcome shift in co-parenting arrangements. And even with difficult break-ups, we still need to arrange childcare.
Parents are moving away from the ‘mum gets the kids and dad sees them every other weekend’ pattern of the last few decades. For many, that can feel emotionally charged, because it’s hard to share your children. But it’s so important to remember that it’s harder for them if they’re not seeing enough of both their parents.
Working together to decide on a care pattern that works for everyone can be difficult, because it means accepting not seeing your children. This can lead to all sorts of emotional responses that are based on 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.
The most common arrangement
One of the most common arrangement patterns 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, as well as after school clubs.
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, and children can maintain online contact with their other parent during the week. Many parents who don’t communicate use this approach too, and it effectively becomes parallel or shared parenting. Remember though, 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.
It can look like this:
Fortnight 1: Monday – Thursday (parent one) Thursday – Sunday (parent two)
Fortnight 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 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.
Co-parenting arrangements: the bottom line
he key thing to remember is try not to restrict 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 http://www.thecoparentway.com for lots of free resources and guides. For expert help you can take our award-winning 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: email@example.com
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.
The Co-Parent Way is a registered trademark. All methodologies and intellectual property are not to be reproduced in any way. The Co-Parent Way is a trading name of Rolling Stone Coaching.