Category Archives: Shared Parenting

Marital Difficulties Through Covid and Christmas, Separation and Mediation

The Christmas period is a time for families to come together and enjoy the festivities. This year has been very different due to the pandemic, the Christmas bubbles plan was changed at the last minute by the government.  Aside from the extra issues this year, Christmas can be a very difficult time for parents who are not getting on. Often parents will struggle through the Christmas period and decide soon after that they want to separate.

Parents Arguing at Christmas

Pandemic or not, Christmas can be a stressful time of year when arguments and resentments between parents will escalate. You may have to deal with family members or in-laws that you’d rather not speak to or deal with your child melting down when their new toy doesn’t work. There are plenty of surveys out there showing the top reasons for arguments on Christmas day, the Independent stated these top 10 reasons in 2018:

  1. Deciding what to watch on TV – the chances of everyone wanting to watch the same thing are slim.
  2. Fighting over the Christmas dinner – someone forgot to put the Brussel sprouts on or burned the turkey.
  3. Someone having too much to drink – too much alcohol consumed by a parent will mean a disconnect, needless aggression or heighted emotion.
  4. People constantly on their gadgets / social media – Dad or teens so absorbed in their phones they don’t partake in the family time together.
  5. Deciding who is doing the washing up – No one wants to do the washing up and mum is fed up of doing everything.
  6. The mess after the presents have been opened – absolute chaos and there is always one parent who will find the mess stressful until it is tidied away.
  7. Trying to get new toys/ gadgets to work – either you forgot to buy the batteries, or the game or toy is too complex to play.
  8. Playing board games – The idyllic idea of playing a family board game quickly diminishes as your youngest has a melt down when they lose, or your spouse keeps leaving the room making everyone wait for their turn to be taken.
  9. Children moaning about their presents or not getting something they wanted – this is a given in most households sadly.
  10. Children moaning about being bored – this is a result of tired children who got up too early, ate too much sugar and don’t know what to do with themselves.

Sound familiar? Due to the pandemic, we have heard from many parents who have found Christmas to be the last straw in their relationship. They have endured a hard year and there are too many long-standing tensions that now come to the surface.

Marital Problems Through Covid Lockdown

For many people, they have had to endure a long year where the dynamics of the household may have changed. For example, someone who has been used to going out to work every day may have suddenly had to work from home whilst trying to home school or may have even lost their job.

Families have been housebound for many months which has caused frictions between parents that are difficult to overcome. You may have seen your partner or spouse in a new light being around them all the time.

One mum that I spoke to described how she had never realised how selfish her husband was until this year.

He didn’t once help with any of the home schooling or any activities to keep the kids entertained. He was working from home but so was I, there was no give and take. I found myself managing the children all day, cooking and cleaning and then trying to catch up on my own work in the evenings. He would then proceed to drink and have loud zoom parties with friends with no regard for me or my needs at all. I have never felt so alone.”

Increase In Alcohol and Drug Misuse

We wrote a post recently on separating parents where drugs and alcohol are involved, and sadly we have seen a huge increase in these cases throughout this year. Job loss, furlough, boredom and stress have caused many people to increase their intake of alcohol and other substances.

Parents Who decide to Separate

Whatever your reasons for separating it is important to keep your children’s best interests as your priority. As much as you may feel a lot of anger towards your spouse and want to inflict hurt onto them, you must set these feelings aside for the sake of your children. We have written many posts covering all aspects of this and how you can best approach the separation and arrangements for the children. Here are some you may find useful:

Effects of Conflict Between Parents on Their Children

Arrangements for Children after Separation – The Importance of Compromise

Putting The Children First After Separation

Tips For Parenting Children Who Have Two Homes

Parental Alienation – What is it?

Children Under 11 – Understanding their Confusion after Separation

Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce or Separation

Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents

How can Mediation Help?

If you are finding it hard to talk with your ex about any aspect of the separation, whether it is to do with financial settlements or arrangements for the children – mediation will help you reach a compromise without the need to battle it out in court. The mediation process can be conducted completely online through Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime or Zoom so you can take part from home without having to be in the same room as your ex-partner or spouse.

Here are some examples of the types of issues that can be talked through during mediation:

  • Discuss and agree how and when the children spend time with each parent. What pattern of care can be agreed upon.
  • Work out living arrangements for the children that take account of their needs and your obligations as parents.
  • Ensure that financial support takes realistic account of both parents’ circumstances and the children’s needs.
  • Address the division of property and other assets in a way that is fair, and takes an accurate account of both your and the children’s needs and the resources available.
  • Lay a foundation for the kind of co-operation and communication in respect of the children’s needs, education, health and welfare that is essential to their future well-being.

Can We Help?

As experienced family mediators we have years of experience helping all types of families with different issues and reasons for conflict. We help separated couples and their children to move forwards positively with compromise and agreement. If you would like help or advice to see if mediation can help you in your situation, please do call us on 0788 903 9393.


Covid Christmas Bubbles For Separated Parents and Blended Families

We are fast approaching the end of what has been a very strange and stressful year for most people across the globe. The pandemic has caused not only financial strain and employment uncertainty but has put huge pressure on families and relationships everywhere. We are now getting close to Christmas and although the government have announced a relaxation of the Tier System rules between the 23rd and 27th December, many people are very confused about what to do for Christmas celebrations. On the one hand they want to see extended family but on the other we all know that the virus will not be taking a week off. Keeping loved ones safe especially older more vulnerable family members is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Continue reading Covid Christmas Bubbles For Separated Parents and Blended Families

Separated Parents and Children’s Arrangements on Lockdown During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As we approach the seventh week of lockdown there has been an increase in reports of separated parents in conflict over arrangements for their children. Whilst some parents have continued with the contact arrangements previously agreed, there has been an increase in some parents either finding it hard to adhere to their Child Arrangement Orders (CAO) during lockdown or cases where the lockdown has been used as an excuse to prevent the other parent from seeing their children.



Child Contact Arrangements During Lockdown – The Official Guidance

On the 23rd March the government issued the ‘stay at home and away from others’ rule which included:

“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”.

This didn’t mean however that the children must be moved between homes. On the 24th March additional guidance was published on compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders. Within this guidance it states that ‘parents must abide by the rules on staying at home and away from others’. However, the ‘expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their children’.

So, the decision was to be made between the parents to make a sensible assessment and take the best approach that would keep everyone safe by taking into account the risk of any more vulnerable individuals in each of the homes. And here within lies the problem for many parents who do not have the benefit of good communication between them.

Cafcass and the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary have continued with cases and assessments during the lockdown by using Skype and other means of video conferencing in order to continue with their services. If your case or assessment is imminent you will be contacted in plenty of time and advised on the new arrangements.

Changing Your Children’s Arrangements During Lockdown

If someone in either household is in the high-risk category for Coronavirus, a decision must be made between you as the responsible parents as to how best change the arrangements for the children. In some cases, a parent may be a key worker and therefore at a higher risk of coming into contact with the virus. Parents are free to temporarily vary a CAO if the changes made are;

  • Reasonable
  • In the spirit of the original order
  • Communicated to the other party with suitable alternative arrangements put in place for the children to maintain regular contact with the other parent

The safety and welfare of the children is the most important aspect of these decisions and where there is good communication between separated parents, these decisions can be arrived at and new arrangements made without disruption or emotional upheaval.

Communication Breakdown and Child Contact Issues

Where parents may have separated recently or perhaps there is high conflict, the Coronavirus lockdown has caused many issues where children’s arrangements have been disrupted. Here are some examples:

Contact Refusal

A separated couple in Totnes with a 3 year old daughter had recently settled on a schedule where the Dad would see his daughter every other weekend from Friday night to Sunday morning. However, when the social distancing and stay at home measures were introduced, the mother refused the weekend visit to take place saying that she felt the Dad wouldn’t be taking the social distancing seriously and would put his daughter and therefore herself in danger of contracting the virus.

Contact Not Possible Due to Distance

A mother of three living in Plymouth has found herself isolating alone with the children with no respite as the children’s father lives in Newcastle. The children used to travel by train to visit their dad and he would meet them off the train. He has now become unemployed and train travel is no longer safe for the children.

Shielding Elderly Relatives at Home

One Dad we spoke with is now longer able to see his children as he had to take the decision to isolate with his ageing mother who he must care for. Unfortunately, his children’s mother has turned this situation against him and is refusing phone and video calls with him, telling him the children no longer want to speak with him.

New Partner Moved In During Lockdown

At the beginning of the ‘stay at home’ guidance from the government, couples who were not cohabiting were told to make a choice as to whether to live together through the lockdown period. In this instance, the mother of two young children aged 2 and 6 decided to move her new boyfriend in for the lockdown, having only met him online a few weeks before. The father has become increasingly worried about the safety of his children as the new boyfriend is continually drinking and taking drugs. He has heard reports from neighbours with whom he is still in contact that there is a lot of shouting and uproar coming from the former family home.

Children Scared to Go to Dad’s

One family we spoke with have stopped physical contact with the Dad as he works in a supermarket. The mother has become very paranoid and fixated that he will have the virus, but she has made her children absolutely petrified that he has it and if they come into contact with him, they will catch it and die.

 From the Children’s Perspective

At the heart of all of these situations, we have the innocent children who are experiencing a very frightening and uncertain time. Even if they are maintaining contact schedules with both parents and move between two loving households, they are still feeling scared. It is important to remember how they are experiencing lockdown. Children pick up on atmosphere and emotion around them, this can really affect them deeply and they may not be able to voice their fears and feelings.

Every child, whatever their age is missing their peers, their friends and their school environment. What started off as a week or two off school and seemed quite fun, is now confusing and lonely. Nothing beats messing about with friends, playing in the park and playing those imaginative games that only children can.

Children will also be experiencing the stress and frustration from their parents, who are possibly trying to work from home whilst juggling home learning for their kids. Money worries and concerns for the future may make parents behave differently which will be worrying and upsetting for children.

Many children are experiencing fear of the virus, particularly if someone they know has been affected and sadly passed away. Children always have natural a fear of a parent or carer dying, these feelings are of course going to be magnified during this time. Kids have also become infinitely more aware of their own mortality and may fear their own death.

During these strange times, it is even more important to take the time to talk with your children about their feelings and worries. Explain things and reassure in a way that is appropriate for their age and understanding.

Will the lockdown be relaxed on Sunday? As a nation we await the announcements on Sunday which will define how we all may be able to live a little more freely, but we are all acutely aware that if restrictions are relaxed it will be a very slow and tentative easing and by no means a return to life as we knew it. It is highly unlikely that schools will be reopening anytime soon. So, how do we cope? How do we make things as easy as possible for ourselves and our children? Let go of anger and embrace kindness and compassion. Open the lines of communication between everyone in your children’s lives.

Online Mediation Services During Lockdown

As experienced family mediators we can help you during lockdown to mediate with ex partners and family members to resolve conflict and any issues arising from separation or arrangements for children. We are able to do this via skype, WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom or any other video conferencing method.

We have found that video or online mediation can be even more successful than it is in person, face to face. Each parent can join the video call from the comfort of their home, at a time that suits them. The pressure of having to be in the same room as your ex is removed. Separate sessions for individuals can be arranged prior to the joint session if that makes things easier. It is also possible to put you in separate breakout rooms during the session, mute one of you while the other is talking or turn off the video.

If you are struggling to agree on the arrangements for your children, or any aspect of joint parenting during lockdown, we can help. Call Frances now on 0788 903 9393 to find out more.

How Families Can Survive the Covid-19 Lockdown

As we go into April 2020, families across the UK and indeed the world find themselves in uncharted waters as the lockdown continues. Our worlds have all been turned upside down as we batten down the hatches to wait for new developments on this global pandemic Covid-19. Parents across the nation are facing new challenges as they juggle home schooling, working from home or perhaps a complete loss of income. These new pressures have been applied over the space of a couple of weeks with no warning and the uncertainty stretches ahead with no definite end date. Fears about putting food on the table, paying the rent and the welfare of family members who live elsewhere are all compounded as our four walls become our only vista.

We Are All in this Together

At a time when we are told “We are all in this together”, for some, this could not feel further from the truth as relationships become strained with these new challenges at home. It is important to remember that the lockdown reality is a different experience for everyone. A family with four children stuck in a flat with no outside space will endure hardships and challenges far beyond that of a family in suburbia with a large garden. People’s financial situations are changing on a daily basis too, with businesses closing temporarily across the nation and the streets becoming eerily quiet.

So What Can We Do to Ride the Storm and Stay Sane?

We are lucky enough in this country to live in an era of advanced technology, with instant access to information and online communication possible for most. Our televisions and news feeds are swamped with ‘helpful’ advice on how we should all be managing this, but this can be overwhelming and unrealistic advice for a lot of people.

We know we should all be forming a routine, keeping fit from the front room and schooling our children with the patience of Mary Poppins. The reality of the past two weeks is that we may have all started with the best of intentions; beginning the day with a Joe Wicks work out with the kids at 9am (love him or hate him!), followed by a couple of hours of school work. Most of us are not teachers and the daunting task of solving a year 9 maths problem with a bored teen, whilst a younger sibling is firing nerf bullets at your head, have certainly worn a little thin. For some, you may be attempting to work from home too or perhaps your partner is a keyworker working long shifts on the front line. We all hold the fear that we or someone close to us will contract the virus and become very ill.

So, the point of this post is not to give you advice on the practical side of our situation, we feel sure you have had plenty of that. One of the key things we want to get across is the importance of nurturing and maintaining relationships, particularly with your children.

Communication – Listening to your Children

Whatever age your children are, if they are living with you or not, they need your listening ear and your patience now more than ever. Don’t make them feel like they are the problem, that they are reason everything is going wrong. Make the time to listen to them, allow them to express their fears and worries, answer their questions with a balance between sharing the facts without frightening them and explain things in a way that is appropriate for their age. This is not the time to enforce a new set of rules or devise punishments around their behaviour.

Children Aged 4 and Under

For younger children, aged 4 and under, there will be limited understanding of what is happening and why you are all at home. However, they will certainly pick up on atmosphere, your worries or frustrations over work and money will filter through to them and will cause confusion and emotions they don’t understand. There could be a tendency to play up or do naughty things to gain your attention, particularly if you are trying to focus on work and constantly shushing them whilst you are on the phone. They will miss the interactions with their peers at nursery and the trips to the park to meet with friends that are now out of the question. You may see increased tantrums in your children this age and the way that you deal with this must be with increased patience and understanding. Do not react with anger or shouting.

Children Aged 5 to 11

Children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old, will have more of a grasp on the situation, but with the increased understanding comes more likelihood of anxiety and worry. Children this age will miss their school friends and the routine of the school day. At the start of this, they may well have been excited by the prospect of school being closed but after a week or two this will have been replaced with loneliness and boredom. This age group will be likely to worry that a parent or a family member will catch Coronavirus and die, they will want to ask questions about death and may have fears over their own mortality.

Teenagers 12 to 18 Years

Teenagers may become more withdrawn and should be coaxed to join in with family games or activities, even if it is just helping to cook the dinner. If they just stay in their rooms glued to social media and screens they could become withdrawn and depressed.

For many teens they are also going through the added upheaval of having their exams cancelled. GCSE, AS Level and A level exams will now not be taking place leaving many feeling directionless for the next 5 months. Results will be based on a combination of coursework, mock results and expected grades. This age group will also be missing their mates; the get togethers, parties and outings that they would usually be enjoying.

Take the time to sit with them and talk about anything they want to, help them with school work that has been set and encourage them to focus on that for part of each day.

The Importance of Routine and Structure

Children of all ages thrive and manage the best when they have a structure to their day, this is purely so they know what is coming next. Whilst you will not be able to keep as tight a structure as a full school timetable, doing the same things at certain times of the day will help. At the time of writing this we are all still permitted some time out of the house for exercise with household members. This can be built into the routine and proves to be very beneficial for everyone’s mental health including the parents. Going on a walk after lunch as a family can help to blow the cobwebs away and get everyone off their screens.

Staying in Touch With Family and Friends

Children will find it comforting to stay in touch with Grandparents, other family members and carers with calls or video calls. You can make this regular and even play simple games together by setting up a video call with a board game or card game. Remember that this is also very important for grandparents too, who are most likely more restricted in their movements than others. Older children should be encouraged to stay in contact with friends and peers with calls rather than just texting.

Birthdays Under Lockdown

There is nothing worse for kids at this time than to have a birthday party cancelled. With a bit of creativity, you can try to help them celebrate; set up a Zoom meeting for them with their friends or perhaps contact parents to get them to send video messages from all their friends. Some people have arranged for all the neighbours to come out of their front doors and sing Happy Birthday at a certain time. Anything you can do to make your child feel they have not been forgotten will help to brighten up their day.

Many parents will also be thinking about rearranging parties for their children to celebrate when we have come out of lockdown. This will give them something to look forward to, buying online vouchers for experiences that can be enjoyed at a later date are also a good idea.

Separated Parents and Children With Two Homes

Many separated parents will be managing this alone with no other adult on hand to ease the burden. Some who practise shared parenting schedules may have found these routines have been disrupted by the current circumstances. This will be very hard on the children if their routine of seeing both parents is broken. Encouraging contact with the other parent is vital for your children’s mental well-being. This is not the time to take out anger and frustration on your ex and refuse them this access.

If you are managing to keep the children moving between the two houses, the communication between you as parents is all the more important. School work and books will need to be transferred and for younger children each parent will need to know where they have got to in the schedule of set work.

Practising Patience

Whilst we are all cooped up together, it is easy to let tempers fray and frustrations get the better of us. Practising patience is probably the thing that will hold families together; find empathy for other family members or children and try to see that their behaviour might be due to the stress and uncertainty of the situation rather than just belligerence.

A moody and sullen teenager may be experiencing real emotional difficulties from being separated from a boyfriend or best friend, rather than just being ‘difficult’. A tantruming toddler will be confused by the change in routine and the tension in the house over money – be patient and be kind.

Families come in all shapes and sizes these days, with stepfathers and mothers parenting children with half brothers and sisters. Of course, there will be tensions at times, but try to stop and practise a pause before you react to something. Respect everyone’s own space, so if someone needs some alone time they can have it.

See the Positives

As hard as it may be during these difficult times, try to see the positives that these circumstances have brought us. Yes you will have financial worries, but if you are a parent who is usually at work all the time, see the positives that you can spend this time at home focusing on and getting to know your children better. You will never have had so much time to do things with them and help them with their schoolwork. If your children are pre-school age you can make the most of having creative play time with them. But this is not to say that you need to try to do too much, be kind to yourself too, don’t put to much pressure on yourself to make everything perfect or teach them as well as their real teacher would.

What they will remember from this time is how they felt. Did they feel a loving connection with you? Did they feel heard and understood? Did you all have fun and laugh together as a family?

Focus on what you can do together and not on what you can’t do.

Online Mediation Services

As professional mediators we understand the extra pressure on families and separated parents at this difficult time. Our mediation services are still available and we can conduct MIAMs and mediation via video link, Skype, Zoom and Whatsapp. If you are having difficulties in resolving differences on your separation or arrangements for children, then please do give us a call to find out how we can help you. Call Frances on 07889 039393 today.

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.


How To Handle Christmas For Separated Parents – Putting The Children First


Christmas is here again and for many people it is a time to get together with family and reach out to extended family to enjoy the festivities together. However, for some people who have recently separated from a partner or spouse, new arrangements will need to be made. If the separation is civil and you both still communicate, a compromise can usually be reached and in some cases the parents can come together on Christmas day for the sake of the children.

Christmas Day

For children, especially younger children, waking up early on a Christmas morning full of excitement to see what presents have been left for them is a massive part of Christmas. It is also the most enjoyable part of the day for the parents to see their happy, excited faces. After separation it is not going to be an experience that both parents can share in the same house, unless they are on very good terms. Here are some options for reaching a compromise that is fair to everyone:

  1. If parents are on very good terms – Christmas day can be shared with both parents being present. Alternate the houses so that each parent gets to host the Christmas day every other year. If there are new partners involved and everyone is happy to muck in together for the day for the sake of all the children, then that has to be the best option.
  2. If parents are on reasonable terms – Christmas day can be alternated between the houses, with the other parent coming over for part of the day or maybe just an hour or so.
  3. If parents are on bad terms so that they can’t be in the same room as one another. This is very sad for the children but to save a frosty and hostile Christmas day, parents will have to alternate Christmas and not spend the day together.

In all these scenarios, forward planning is essential. Parents and children need to know in plenty of time what the arrangements will be and who’s turn it is to have the kids. Agree between you which house Father Christmas will be stopping at and if you can, both contribute to the gift that will go in the stockings.

Don’t Make The Children Choose

The most important thing to be mindful of is that you will make your kids unhappy and stressed if they feel they must make a choice between their parents. If the arrangement is set to make it fair for alternating Christmas’s, then the children will accept that and be glad to spend time with each parent. If you want to involve the children in the decisions, then you must be prepared for what they might say and accommodate their choice.

Equally don’t ever be negative about the time the children will spend with their other parent, that will make them feel bad. Don’t make them feel guilty that they won’t be with you on the special day and that you will be sad and lonely without them. They will struggle to know what to do and will feel sad leaving you and feel guilty having a good time with the other parent. This is manipulation and using your child’s feeling to get your own way or to try to ruin the time they have with your ex.

Seeing the Grandparents

Seeing Granny and Grandpa over the Christmas period is also a very important part of Christmas for the children. Do not deny your children access or contact with your ex-partner’s parents over Christmas holidays. Whatever situation has arisen or whatever bad terms you may have left them on, it is so important for a child’s development to have regular contact with grandparents.

If grandparents live close by then arranging a day for the children to spend with each is not too difficult. However, if your ex-partner’s parents live miles away, you may have to reach a compromise for a day to be arranged to spend with them.

Everyone will have to be flexible with arrangements and accept that after separation, it simply won’t be possible for everyone to spend Christmas day together as perhaps they once did. If everyone has the children’s best interest at heart, then everyone can be flexible but fair when it comes to making the plans.

Christmas Presents

Although Christmas presents would seem to be the most important thing to any child, really, they just want to feel loved and have fun family time. However, communicating with your ex-partner or spouse about what gifts you will be giving will save you both the stress and hassle of trying to work out what the other parent might have got for them. Liaising on this could even mean that you might decide to give a joint present from both of you which will show the children you have come together to get them a larger present they know is perfect.

Don’t try to ‘buy affection’ by getting a ridiculous gift that has been purchased to ‘out-do’ the other parent. This can be a common behaviour of the parent that doesn’t see the child as often since the separation. Overcompensating in this way won’t fix anything and younger children aren’t aware of the monetary value of things anyway.

When it comes to helping the children choose and buy a gift for their other parent, you must once again, set your feelings aside and realise that it is important for your child to feel they can give something to their other parent from themselves. You are doing this for your child’s benefit, so try to keep that in the forefront of your mind.

Inappropriate Gifts

Another issue that has arisen in parents we have spoken to is the other parent buying age inappropriate games for gaming consoles. In this instance the parents of an 8-year-old boy were arguing because the Dad had bought an Xbox for his son and was then allowing him to play Fortnight which has a has a PEGI rating of 12. As this was all set up in the Dad’s house the mother felt she had no control over this, and the game was clearly designed for older children. It caused a real problem for the parents who had mostly managed to agree on arrangements until that point.

If you are Alone This Christmas

If it’s not your turn to have the kids and you won’t be joining them for any part of the day remember it will be your turn next year or perhaps you will be spending another day or two with them over the holidays. You can make your time with them positive and happy and have your own fake Christmas with them. Make sure that you make arrangements with friends or other family, so you don’t spend the day alone.

A separated Mum said:

“It is the kids’ turn to be with their Dad this year, which is sad for me, but with the ‘every other year’ arrangement that we have it is the only fair way to do it. I have had plenty of time to make plans with friends so that I don’t spend the day alone. I will be doing our fake Christmas Day with them on Boxing Day with my side of the family, so I suppose in a way they get two Christmas Days!”.

How Can Mediation Help?

Sadly not all separated couples are able to remain amicable and find it very difficult to communicate to make arrangements in general about the children, let alone agree on plans for Christmas. Mediation can resolve disagreements between separated parents to find a way to move positively forward with the children’s best interests considered. There may be ways to work things out that neither parent had thought of.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help separated parents with Mediation, call Frances on 0788 9039393.

Tips For Parenting Children Who Have Two Homes

Shared Parenting is becoming a much more common way to bring up children after divorce or separation. With both parents now taking a much more active role in bringing up their children these days as apposed to the more traditional roles in times gone by.

Whilst there are so many positive aspects to parenting in this way, with the children spending similar amounts of time with both parents and maintaining these relationships and bonds. There can be some difficulties to overcome which may not be initially apparent. There are logistical issues with changing homes a couple of times a week, but also emotional implications for the children which can be managed by being aware of them.

Changeover Day

Depending on the parenting schedule that you have arranged with your ex-partner will determine how many switches between the two homes the children will be subjected to. Also, the age of your children will define how involved you are in terms of picking up and dropping off. For example, teenage children will be walking themselves to school, so it is just a case for them which home they return to after school.

For younger children, getting used to having two homes can be harder. So, to make the change over as stress free as possible, try to follow these tips:

  • Be punctual, don’t leave children waiting passed the agreed time to collect them.
  • Be positive about the change over and enthusiastic about the time they will spend with the other parent.
  • If the children want to share what activities they have enjoyed with the parent they have just been with, then be positive and happy to listen to them.
  • Don’t pass judgement on the plans or activities that the other parent has set out.
  • Be organised, so that everything is ready for the other parent when they turn up to collect the children.
  • Be flexible – sometimes, days and times must be changed, as long as this is done in plenty of time and not on a regular basis this will cause less emotional distress to the children.
  • Respect your ex-partner, in turn they need to be respectful of you, your time and your way of doing things.
  • Never argue or berate your ex at changeover times in front of the children. For your child to see the two people they love the most fighting is the most stressful situation for them.

House Rules

Learning the rules in different houses helps children to develop skills around managing different situations and learning how there can be different way to approach things. However, as separated parents it is important that you communicate with each other on key rules and boundaries so that the children don’t become too confused.

Rules can be about bedtimes, homework, screen time, behaviour or any routine. The difficulty can come if parents have wildly different rules to the other home. For example, if in one home the children are not expected to do any chores, it can make life harder in the home where they are asked to help around the house.

Arrange a time to communicate with your ex about the way you do things in your home so that you are aware of each other’s routines. This is also a perfect time to discuss any behavioural issues that may have arisen since the separation. It is not uncommon for children to react in a negative way as they struggle to deal with their emotions.

Children’s Space

If you are the parent who has moved out of the family home and must now make a new home, let’s face it the change will also be difficult for you. The child’s bedroom is an important consideration as it is their new space. Here are some things to consider when making the transition:

  • Let the children have some say on the decoration and furnishing of their new space or bedroom (within reason!). It could be as simple has letting them choose a duvet set or painting a chest of drawers in their choice of colour.
  • Allow them to bring some of their favourite books or toys so that there are some familiar and loved items in both homes. You do not want to be packing an entire suitcase every few days as the children move between the two homes. Communication with your ex on dividing these items is key here to make things fair.
  • Don’t let the creation of your child’s new bedroom become a competition with your ex-partner. Resist the urge to go completely over the top by creating a palatial space. Try to remember they really just want comfort, familiarity and quality time with you.

For the parent staying in the family home, the main advice is to try to be enthusiastic about the children excitedly telling you about their ‘new, amazing bedroom’ at Dad’s. Don’t be tempted into one-upmanship to try to keep the children loving the home they have with you more than their new home.

Family Pets

This can be a tricky one to handle, as for some children leaving the beloved moggy behind each week when they go off to Dad’s can be tough. Each situation is different and of course pets are more important in some families, but there are ways to help your child with this difficulty.

  • I have heard of cats, gerbils and hamsters travelling with the children between the two houses. If this is something you think is absolutely necessary and it works for both parents in a practical sense, then there is no reason not to do it.
  • Most people opt for getting a new pet at the new home so that a new relationship can be formed. However, this should only be done if it can be managed properly, for example, don’t rush out and buy a new puppy to please your children only to find you can’t cope with all the walking and care for the dog alongside your job. You could start with a low maintenance hamster and see how you get on.


With all separations, there are going to be issues arise that you couldn’t predict, but the important thing is to keep the lines of communication open with your ex-partner. Put the acrimony and bitterness aside and focus on what is best for the children to maintain a strong and healthy relationship with both parents. Here are some further blog posts which you may find useful to read:

Arrangements for Children after Separation – The Importance of Compromise

Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents

Understanding and Helping Under 11s through Divorce and Separation

Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce and Separation

Loyalty Issues and Conflict in Children after Separation

Attachment Bonding in Parent and Child Relationships

Putting the Children First after Separation

How can Mediation Help?

If you live in Totnes or any surrounding area in South Devon and would like to find out more about our mediation services, please do give us a call on 0788 903 9393. We have years of experience with many different family situations and have helped many families move forward to a positive future after separation. You can read some of our case studies here or have a look at some of our testimonials.



When Separated Parents Remarry – Through The Children’s Eyes

When a family breaks up and parents separate there can be some unsettled times ahead for everyone, particularly the children. They must get used to their parents living in two separate houses and possibly moving to a new school too. Sometimes all too soon new partners arrive on the scene bringing a whole host of new issues, even if the intentions are all good. A lot will depend on the ages of the children and how the separation was dealt with by the parents.

A parent dating someone new is one thing and much has been written about how and when to introduce new partners to children. In an ideal world the new partner would move in after some time when there is a solid relationship between them and the children. However, a marriage proposal can be a big worry for children as there is a permanence and finality about marriage which may cause insecurities or fears in children and teenagers, even if they have become close to the new partner. It can also re-open old wounds with the ex-spouse causing strains in the relationships there too.

Here are some examples of how these situations make children feel – being aware of things from their perspective will help you give them the reassurance and understanding that they deserve.

Sense of Loss

Whilst you and your new partner are experiencing all the excitement and happiness that comes with a new relationship, just remember that your children, although happy to see you happy, will be mourning the los of what was. In their eyes the best possible family set up is with both parents that they love and their siblings all in one house. As happy as the new set up may be, they will always feel nostalgic for the loss of the old family unit and having both parents on hand 24/7.

Jealousy Issues

Sharing their parent, who was most likely a single parent for a while, with someone new will stir up feelings of resentment and jealousy towards the newcomer. These reactions are perfectly normal, and the child should not be reprimanded – from their point of view, they had their parent all to themselves for a while and mourned the loss of the other parent. Then no sooner have they got used to this, they must now share their parent with an outsider. It will take time to trust and build a bond with your new partner, it is important not to force it. Children will often find fault with new partners to vocalise their jealousy and it is important not to react badly to this as the child will feel unheard, rejected and replaced.

Attachment Issues

Another common way that children react to these changes in the home is to display increased attachment bonding issues. This is particularly applicable in younger children, who may start suddenly not wanting to go to school or refusing to leave your side whilst you are together at home.


As a child watches their parent become close with a new partner, they can feel a sense of abandonment if they feel they are no longer receiving the attention that they once did from you. Plenty of reassurance is required to help them realise that they are still important and nothing about your relationship with them has changed. Remember in their mind they may be thinking “Where do I fit in now?”.

Loyalty Struggles

It is important to remember that your child will struggle with the concept of a new father or mother figure. If they have fun with them or show affection to their stepparent, they may feel that they are being disloyal to their real Dad or Mum. It is very important that both you and your new partner let them know that they are not there to replace their real parent. Never bad mouth or run the other parent down (even if you feel it is justified), this is possibly the cruellest position to put a child into. Read our post on loyalty issues and conflict for children after separation.


It is quite normal too for the children to draw comparisons between your new partner and their real Mum or Dad. During the adjustment phase, show some understanding if your child comes out with something like: “My Dad is much stronger and better at football then you”. It is best to laugh it off and agree that he probably is. This is no time to let your ego get in the way of bonding with your new stepchild.

Involvement in the Wedding

When you have set the date for the big day, it is important to involve your children in the process and bear them in mind when planning for everything. If your children feel shut out or disregarded it will cause resentment issues. It is a fine balance to keep moody teens happy in this situation if they have decided to take a dislike to your new partner – tread with caution, understanding and love.

Custody battles

Sometimes, when a separated parent decides to remarry, it can reopen custody arguments that had been previously laid to rest. Keeping open discussions with your ex-partner will in most cases quell this situation as nobody will suddenly be sprung a surprise about a wedding.

However, it does happen, for example, a father marrying a new partner may suddenly feel he can look after the children full time now he has a new wife. Or a mother may take a dislike to new partner of her ex-husband and refuse to let the children stay over with him anymore. Communication is key through out all these situations and if possible, all the adults should get together and meet to discuss what is best for the kids.

How can mediation help?

In all these situations, from the initial separation through to the arrangements for the children and introduction of new partners, emotions can run high. Each situation will be different, but when adults struggle to communicate effectively with each other the children will suffer. Mediation enables all parties the opportunity to get to together to resolve issues with the help of an experienced mediator. If you would like to speak to a mediator to discuss your circumstances please call Frances on 0788 903 9393.


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.

Arrangements for Children after Separation – The Importance of Compromise

When parents decide to separate, one of the biggest decisions that they must make is how to arrange the schedule for their children. Who will be the main carer? How often will the other parent see the children? In theory, there are many options open to explore and discuss, but often emotions are running high during these initial discussions and it is easy for both parents to lose sight of what is the most important – the children’s best interests.

Your Child’s Best Interests

Your own ideas of what is best for your child may well be influenced by your own emotions, particularly if the separation has been traumatic and you have a high conflict relationship with your ex. Remember that consulting your children on their arrangements is important but can only be done if they are old enough to understand. Asking a toddler how often they would like to see Daddy is too big a question and will only cause upset. Here are some pointers to consider:

Adjustment to the separation – to make this as smooth as possible the child needs ‘order’ in the upheaval, a predictable routine that they can rely on and get used to.

Avoid conflict – openly arguing with your ex in front of the children will cause distress. Also, bad mouthing your ex to your children will force an unhappy loyalty conflict by making them choose a parent to side with.

How to Work Out the Arrangements

It is important to remember that most children will benefit from being in regular contact with both their parents and receive input, love and care from both. This is where the difficulties of making arrangements can start. For example, if one parent feels they want to punish the other parent by refusing access to the children or making contact difficult, it is the children that will suffer the most. Your own feelings for your ex-partner must be set aside for the sake of your kids. In their eyes they love both their parents and will be traumatised enough by the split, without the extra stress of dealing with parental conflict too.

The pattern that you choose for your own situation must be a decision that is agreed by both parents, often meaning a compromise must be reached. These decisions can only be reached if both parents are willing to listen to the other point of view and discuss the situation fully and fairly with empathy.

For example, a common occurrence can be that the Dad will say he wants 50/50 shared responsibility for the children and have them stay with him for 50% of the time. This sounds fair in theory, but it may be far from practical to arrange around his work. Also, from the mother’s point of view, she may have been the main carer to the children since they were born, why should she suddenly relinquish this now and only see her children half the time? So, you can see how both parents in this situation will not agree and will also feel the other is being completely unreasonable.

Shared Care or Shared Parenting

Shared care of the children can work for some families if work commitments allow and both parents are committed to the arrangement. It can mean less complications in terms of finances too, as technically no maintenance need change hands if both parents hold equal responsibility for home, food and utilities.

However, the best interests of the children must also be considered, changing between homes a few times a week can be very disruptive for them emotionally particularly if they are young. Alternatively, it could be too long between seeing either parent if an alternative week schedule was decided upon.

There is also the practical side of things where they may need to transport personal belongings between the houses. Imagine the distress if the favourite teddy got left at Dad’s one day and the toddler can’t sleep without it. This is not to say that it can’t work, in fact, we have seen many couples who have made it work very successfully and their children are balanced, happy and enjoy time with both parents. It is just important to consider the aspects of 50/50 shared care that can make it more challenging.

We have written a very comprehensive blog which gives many examples of shared parenting schedules and how to make the arrangements that will make shared parenting work in different situations. You may also find it useful to read the highs and lows or shared parenting.

Other Parenting Schedules

Alternating weekends

A very common pattern that is set up between separated parents is where the mother will remain the main carer, but the children will have regular visits to their Dad. This is often worked out that the father has the children every other weekend for a long two day/two-night visit. Sometimes an issue with this arrangement is that the father wouldn’t see the children very often, so you can add a mid-week overnight stay every week on a Wednesday to increase the time.

60/40 Schedule

Another example of how it can be worked out is the 60/40 schedule. This works well if both parents want plenty of time with the kids, but the 50/50 schedule has too many change over times. The parents will need to live close to each other for it to work and the children will need to be comfortable and happy living in two houses for nearly equal amounts of time.

70/30 Schedule

Again, this is another option that can work very well, as with any other schedule it needs to be organised, so the children know the pattern and get used to it. You can work this out so that every week one parent does 5 days and the other does 2 days. Or you can schedule every third week, the children go to their Dad. This can work well for older children or teens as they will be happier to spend a week away from a parent, than a toddler.

The Importance of Compromise

Whatever your individual situation, reasons for your separation, age of your children or your location you can see that there are many ways in which you can arrange to split the time with your children. However, these schedules only work if both parents agree on and stick to the plan. If one parent keeps letting the children down on the weekend that is his or her responsibility, the arrangements won’t work. This also leaves the children in a state of confusion, feeling very insecure and unloved.

The magic of compromise is that it creates a good place to move forward with how the relationship between you and your ex will work. At the end of the day you share the responsibility for your children and if you can manage that from a place of empathy and compromise you will manage the relationship in a much better and more healthy way. This is in the best interests of your children. If they see you both being respectful and flexible with each other it not only sets a good example to them of how adults should manage difficulties, but they will feel loved by both parents.

Can Mediation Help?

Are you trying to work out a parenting schedule with your ex-partner? Are you finding it difficult to reach agreement on this aspect of your separation? Here at Progressive Mediation, in Totnes, we are experienced with family separation situations and the conflict that can occur as parents try to work out finances and children’s’ arrangements. If you would like advice, please call Frances on 0788 903 9393.

Children Back to or Starting School – Tips for Separated Parents

Going back to school in September can be a tough time for children, as it marks the end of the long care free summer holidays. There will be new teachers to get to know and possibly new class mates too.

It could be that your child is starting school for the first time, going into reception class or perhaps they are starting a new school, leaving old friends behind to adjust to a new school and new peers. All this is plenty to deal with, but if your child is dealing with the break-up of their parents over the summer on top of these stresses, it can be a very difficult time.

Here are some top tips for newly separated parents of school aged children who now face an emotional time coupled with new routines between two households or maybe just one with one parent.

Continue reading Children Back to or Starting School – Tips for Separated Parents