Category Archives: Parenting Coordination

Divorced Parents – New Year Resolutions and Tips for Better Parenting

Here we are again in January, the start of the new year and a new decade. January is a time for resolutions, bettering oneself and kicking bad habits. It is not surprising therefore that January is also a time when couples and parents decide to separate or divorce as part of making hopeful positive changes to their lives. Often for the sake of the children they will wait until Christmas is over and everyone is back to work and school, before they tackle this issue.

Positive Changes

So, if you are a newly separating couple this January or perhaps you have been separated for a while, it is a good time to think about how you want to successfully parent your children even though you are no longer with each other. Putting the children first and making sure you don’t drag them into your adult conflicts is just one aspect of the positive changes you could consider for the new year.

Making positive changes to resolve conflict with your ex-spouse or partner is not only beneficial to you and your own healing process but also very important for your children.

We understand that many break ups are not simple and very often are fuelled by anger and hurt. Often each person feels the other doesn’t listen to them or respect them or their point of view. Children can often be drawn into these fights; used as weapons against the other parent, by withholding contact or forcing them to choose sides. Many studies show that it is not the divorce itself but how it is handled by parents that causes the most distress in their children.

Improve Communication

Obviously, it takes two to make this work effectively, but a shift in the tone of your own communication could start to make the process better and healthier. When there are children involved in a separation it is so important for the communication to be regular and civil. There will be arrangements to make for contact, swapping over care, schools, holidays and a whole host of other things.

The stress that is caused to the children and yourself by constantly raging at each other is very damaging. Sometimes you will need to accept that your ex is not someone you like, but for the sake of a more peaceful path you can choose to not react angrily to situations that arise.  As we often see through mediation sessions, when communication is re-established, there is a much better understanding of each parent’s point of view and the anger is reduced.

Making Arrangements and Sticking to Them

Contact arrangements can become complex in today’s busy world. School holidays, work commitments, new partners and many other factors mean that planning arrangements in advance where possible makes absolute sense. It will also benefit the children if they know in advance what will be happening and which parent they will be with during holidays.

Of course, sometimes unforeseen events mean that plans must change, but it is how both parents deal with this that will make the difference to the children. There must be a certain amount of flexibility and compromise on the both sides with empathy when plans have to change. You may find it helpful to read: Arrangements for children after separation – the importance of compromise.

There are always times when parents find it impossible to reach agreement between themselves, in these cases our parenting coordination services will alleviate these difficulties. In some cases parents are so angry with each other they don’t speak at all and would rather communicate through a parent coordinator so they don’t have to see each other.

Having a Regular Pattern of Contact for the Children 

Having a regular (or as regular as you can manage) pattern of care for the children will work best for everyone. There needs to be a clearly defined time when they will be with each parent. If you are still very newly separated it can be difficult to set these boundaries, we have heard of couples spending weekends together with the kids, or one parent coming over to the others house to spend time. This can work but is not sustainable and will cause confusion in the children. They will find it hard to understand why their parents have separated if they spend all their weekends together. So, if this is the case for you, make your new year resolution to set clearer boundaries.

Some parents decide to share care of the children on a 50/50 basis, which can work very well for everyone. We have some shared parenting schedules and ideas which may help if you are looking for this kind of arrangement. We have also written a some tips for parenting children who have two homes.

Put your Children First

This may sound obvious, but it is so often the case that in the midst of a painful separation, parents can lose sight of this and forget the needs and feelings of their children. Putting the Children First after Separation doesn’t mean allowing your children to become spoiled or dictate to you as parents what they want. It is more about considering their feelings before you do something and realising the damage that can be caused by not understanding the emotional roller coaster they go through when their parents split up.

For example, imagine your temptation to bad mouth your ex when he is late again to pick the kids up. Your own anger at his/her incompetence and lack of care could easily come out when the children ask where he/she is. But just pause a moment and understand the child’s perspective – they love both parents, they want to see both parents, they will become very confused and stressed if the two people they love the most on the world are criticising each other. Emotional issues and loyalty conflict in children can damage them deeply – Read our blog here: Loyalty Issues and Conflict in Children after Separation and here: Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents.

Introducing New Partners

Has your ex recently met someone new? Perhaps you have? Or maybe part of the breakdown in your relationship was because there were other people involved. Whatever the circumstances, the way you break the news and introduce new ‘friends’ to your children is very important. There may be issues or factors that you have not considered in this situation. Have a read of our blog which looks at how and when to introduce new partners to your children.

Forgive Your Ex…and Yourself

However painful your separation is and regardless of placing blame at the door of the other, no amount of continued blame or anger will help you going forward. Forgiveness will set you free and enable you to move on with your life. You can only be responsible for your own actions, you cannot control what others do, so with this in mind you will find all of the resolutions above much easier to achieve.

It may be hard to think about doing this and something that will help you is to try to just focus on any positives about your ex. Even just small things like; ‘he always picks up the kids on time’ or ‘she allowed the children to stay with me an extra day as it was my birthday’.

Forgiving yourself can be a tough one, any break up will bring guilt, whether you consider the blame to be with yourself or your ex. Give yourself a break and move on with a positive attitude, your children will fare much better emotionally with a parent who is kind to themselves.

Mediation Can Help

If you are experiencing conflict with an ex-partner and are having difficulty communicating or resolving issues, mediation can be very helpful. Here at Progressive Mediation, we have years of experience with family mediation cases ranging a wide spectrum of circumstances. Please call us on 0788 903 9393 for an informal chat and some advice on your own situation.

 

Back To School – Guide To Managing Term Time For Separated Parents

As the long summer holiday draws to a close, there will be parents all over Devon (and the rest of the UK) who will be relieved that school starts back next week. If you are working parents, you will have been juggling your childcare and work commitments for the last 6 weeks which can be exhausting. If you are a separated parent, you will have possibly had a harder time organising everything over the summer.

There are plenty of guides about how to juggle the summer holidays as a separated parent, but often the start of the school term or year can be just as daunting for separated parents. If you have little ones starting reception it can be a stressful time with the worry of pick up times, uniform and packed lunches whilst dealing with a separation too.

It is also very important to think about things from the child’s point of view, starting a new school and settling in with new teachers, friends and timetables can cause anxiety if everything is turned upside down at home with a recent divorce or separation.

Parental Communication

As with anything, communication is the key to making things as easy as possible for both parents and the children alike. A regular and clearly defined routine between you, the parents, will be very important so that your child will always know who is picking them up from school. Working out a schedule that fits with both of your work commitments can be done but it will take organisation and communication.

Clear communication with the school will also be necessary so there are no mix ups, they will need to know who will be picking up each day, particularly with young children in reception.

Sharing and Coordinating the Expense

Once children are at school, there are many expenses that will need to be covered and discussed between you. As mediators, we see many cases of conflict between parents around the finances which could be avoided with planning and compromise.

School Dinners – This is a regular expense and soon mounts up particularly if you have more than one child. How you divide this cost will depend on your individual circumstances; how care is shared between you and maintenance agreements. If one parent is constantly having to pay arrears for the other parent at school, you can see how the arguments and resentment will grow over time.

After School Care – This can be a huge financial burden for parents who work, in most cases the division of this expense can be worked out according to the ratio of care or can be included in the maintenance plan.

Uniform and Shoes – It is quite amazing how often, shoes and uniform need replacing due to wear and tear or getting too small! If you have more than one child; kitting them out with all the shoes and clothes they need can be a huge dent in your budget. Pre-empting this cost will save a frenzied panic at the end of August, when you try to reach your ex-spouse for help with it.

School Trips – The cost of these becomes greater as the children get older and often letters will come home in your child’s school bag regarding cost and deadline. When children are living in two houses, it is all too easy for these notes to be mislaid and a payment deadline missed. For young children, they can’t be responsible for this type of thing and will only suffer if you can’t cooperate with each other as parents.

School Activities and Involvement

With most schools there will be an array of situations where parents will be invited to attend the school, this can be anything from parents’ evenings, through to school plays, fundraisers and fairs. It is important to remember that your interest and involvement in your child’s activities are so important to them. If you can set your difference’s aside to attend the nativity play to support your child, it will give them a real confidence boost. Providing positive support and showing that your love for your child hasn’t changed despite your separation will eliminate the effects of conflict between parents on your children.

Homework and Exams

Depending how much time your children spend with each of you in your separate homes will depend how much influence you will have on the completion of homework. Remember it is all to easy for kids to find a way to leverage parents who don’t communicate.

“I left my Maths book at Dad’s, so I can’t do my homework today”

“I did it all yesterday at Mum’s house”

These are great excuses that will work if you aren’t in communication as parents. In Infants’ school this is not so vital maybe, but as the kids approach their GCSE’s they need as much support from both parents as possible. It is during these difficult teen years that all the classic rebellion will come into force. Playing truant and experimenting with drink and drugs is any parent’s nightmare, this will be so much easier to monitor if you are coordinated as parents and the lines of communication are open.

Help for Parents

In an ideal world separated parents would remain friends and communicate with each other openly about their children and the arrangements for them. Sadly, there can be so many factors in these situations that prevent that from happening. Some find it just too hard to put their own feelings aside, perhaps there has been violence or one parent refuses to talk with their ex-partner.

Here at Progressive Mediation in Totnes, we have vast experience with mediating these types of conflict and provide comprehensive family mediation services and parent coordination services. Call us today for advice on 0788 903 9393.

End of an Era – The Big Move to Totnes

We set up Progressive Mediation in 2010, with a clear vision of providing affordable family mediation in Bristol. Now, after nearly 20 years, we have taken the decision to move down to Totnes to continue to provide our mediation services in South Devon.

We feel we have achieved so much during our time in Bristol, we have helped so many families and individuals to resolve their issues during their separation or divorce. In fact, we have spent hundreds of hours mediating in complex family disputes including direct consultation with children.

Family Mediation

Family mediation is at the heart of what we do and includes mediating for separating couples whether they are married or not. Usually the arrangements for the children are at the centre of the disputes for these couples and there is nothing more rewarding for us than to help them to resolve their differences and arrive at a compromise which is fair to all.

We are advocates of child inclusive mediation where appropriate and this has been a highly successful way to mediate, particularly with high conflict couples. We have mediated for couples over long distance too which has its challenges but thanks to technology we have made it possible.

Along our journey we have enabled all individuals to gain access to our services by offering the opportunity for people to apply for Legal Aid for Mediation which has proved invaluable for low income families. Making our services affordable to everyone is the ethos that motivates our business.

Parenting Coordination

This is a relatively new service that we started to provide in June 2018 and has proved to be a popular option as an extension after mediation has finished.  It enables separated couples who really struggle with the ongoing communication for arrangements for their children to reach agreement through the coordinator.

You can read our Devon Parenting Coordination Case Study as an example of how this service has worked so well for a high conflict couple in Devon.

Workplace Disputes

Disputes within the workplace are common and can be hugely stressful to the individuals involved; so much of modern life is spent in the workplace. We have helped resolve some complicated and highly emotional civil mediation cases using sole mediation, co-mediation (particularly useful for complex multi-party disputes) and shuttle/caucusing mediation models.

As with all mediation, the successful outcome arrives when all parties feel they have been heard and have a better understanding of the position of the other parties. During our time in Bristol we have mediated many workplace disputes with the same passion and success as our family mediation cases.

Inheritance Act, Property and Business Disputes

Commercial disputes can arise and be associated with property or business agreements, partnership disputes and a host of other issues. The fundamental principles of mediation remain the same; the involved parties are all encouraged to listen to each other’s points of view and a compromise is reached through mediated discussions. Often, there are new ways or suggestions from us that have not been thought of.

Fond Farewells and Thanks

As we close this chapter of our mediation journey in Bristol, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in Bristol who has helped us and all our clients.

Totnes Here We Come!

As our Bristol office closes, we are transferring all our energy and enthusiasm for what we do to our new Totnes premises. Our new contact details are:

Mobile: 0788 903 9393

Address: 17 Smithfields, Totnes TQ9 5LR.

We cover the whole of the South Hams and South Devon area. This includes Totnes, Paignton, Torquay, Newton Abbot, Buckfastleigh,  Ashburton, Plymouth, Kingsbridge and Modbury.

We are welcoming new clients here in Totnes already, so please get in touch if you need advice on any aspect of our mediation services.

Best Wishes

Frances and Charles Place

New Parenting Coordination Services in Bristol and Totnes

We are proud to announce that we can now offer parenting coordination services to parents in Bristol, Totnes and surrounding areas. These services are relatively new in the UK, but have been very popular in the United States and Canada in the last few years. The idea of having a parent coordinator is to help parents in high conflict to communicate better and resolve issues where the children are concerned. The focus is on the welfare and best decisions being made in the interests of the children.

How does the service work?

After separation or divorce, the arrangements for the children can be something that causes a lot of conflict, especially if communication is difficult or has broken down. Parents can disagree on many things from what the kids are given to eat, through to which school they will attend or timings of contact. Our Parenting Coordinator will be as involved as is necessary. Every case is individual with different needs and varying degrees of conflict.

For Parenting Coordination to work, both parents need to be in agreement that the coordinator will be involved in the decision making and will be the mutual point of contact. Unless both parents are completely on board with this, it won’t work.

What can the Coordinator help with?

Our fully qualified parenting Coordinator is trained to deal with any situation that may arise by encouraging the resolution of the conflict and helping to brainstorm ideas to reach compromise. Here are some common things that she helps parents with:

  • Developing a parenting plan with the children’s interests at the forefront
  • Change over timings and meeting points
  • Regularity of contact and holidays
  • Medical decisions
  • Education choices
  • Identify and manage conflicts
  • To communicate more effectively
  • Understanding the impact of conflict on children and develop a more sensitive approach in this area
  • Negotiate appropriate post-divorce or separation boundaries
  • Identify mutually agreeable parenting goals
  • Brainstorm ideas and options to reduce conflict and achieve the parenting goals

Do I need a Parenting Coordinator?

Are you in high conflict with your ex-partner? Do you argue regularly about arrangements for your children? Are you constantly going back to court to get disagreements sorted?

Parents can make their own decision to appoint a parenting coordinator, but in some cases they may be appointed by the court. It might be that there are serious concerns over the mental health or behaviour of one of the parents or a history of substance abuse or family violence.

Can we Help You?

Here at Progressive Mediation, we are fully qualified as parenting coordinators as well as being extremely experienced in all aspects of family mediation. If you would like to speak to us about your situation and find out more about our parenting coordination services, call us today on 0117 924 3880.