Children need to see that their parents can get on.
All children are affected when their parents separate, no matter what their backgrounds. The difference that parents can make is the degree to which their children are affected.
Research shows that behavioural problems, peer relationships, achievement in school, self-esteem, social competence and psychological adjustment are among the consequences of parental separation.
When parents choose court, the procedural adversary and negative feelings generated are more likely to trigger these problems. Children see themselves as half of each parent. If their parents are fighting each other, children may feel that their own identity is under attack. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When parents choose mediation, children benefit. The future well-being of the whole family will be at the heart of the sometimes difficult decisions that need to be made. Children’s needs are at the forefront and parents learn to separate any negative feelings for each other from their parenting roles.
Separating makes co-parenting harder.
When parents live together, they may talk about their children many times over the course of a day. They may discuss eating habits, bed times and which school to choose. They might have conversations about who is going to pick the children up from school, who is going to look after them when a child is ill and can’t go to school, or what presents they think their children might like for their birthdays. These conversations could take place at any time of the day, and may last from a few minutes over the washing up, to something longer.
When parents separate, they lose the opportunity to have these frequent conversations. Instead, they may try to have them at the front door when it’s handover time. This is rarely ideal since it tends to lead to rushed conversations. Or they might turn to emails, texts, or messaging apps which seem convenient at the time. But written messages are prone to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
A frequent consequence of this is that the decisions that need to be made co-operatively are not made and information that needs to be shared is not shared. Conflict increases until one of the parents decides that the other is being so difficult that they think they can only change things by getting a court order to sort things out.
Courts can't resolve conflict.
While courts can make orders which determine parents’ parenting time with their children, they can’t order parents to learn what they need to do in order to make these decisions.
Most parents will have the capacity to make their own decisions. But misdirected hostility and an historic reliance on the courts means that when things go wrong, they tend to turn to judges instead of sorting things out for themselves.
Judges will be the first to admit that parents and not them are better qualified people to make these decisions. There is a better way.
Start parenting mediation.
At Start Mediation we help parents create their own parenting plans. Separated parents who have lost the opportunity to speak daily about their children, will benefit from finding alternative ways of communicating. Coming to mediation to develop a parenting plan is one of the ways they can do this.
Meeting with a mediator provides an opportunity for parents to listen to each other and to work out how they should behave in any given situation. Knowing what’s expected of them makes it more likely that they will do what’s expected in any given situation. For example, in an emergency, when they meet a new partner or when one of them wants to change the routine arrangements.
Creating a parenting plan with the help of a mediator also allows them to practice and improve their communication. Improved communication can help them learn how to resolve any problem they are likely to face in the future.
Create a parenting plan
A parenting plan might include the following:
- How to communicate.
- Routine living arrangements.
- Holiday arrangements.
- Other arrangements – celebration days for example.
- Schools and education.
- Pocket money and child support.
- Parenting styles.
- Making future changes as the children’s needs change.
The plan can be written or unwritten, the choice will be yours as parents.