In the third blog of this 4 part series we’re continuing our focus on how your family will change as a result of separation. In the first blog we invited you to notice the little changes that you may perhaps have not appreciated the significance of and to be alert to them. In the second blog we invited you to think about a vision for what you want your post separation life to be like. To fill this up and make it about both of you, and your children, rather than waiting to see what happened, and then trying to make the best of things.
In this next blog we’re talking about how put that vision into practice and to create the practical arrangements to bring that vision into a reality.
So you have that big vision. You can picture what your post separation life will look like. You can imagine what it will be like for you, the other parent, and your children in that life. You can see it, feel it and hear it. Just stop for a moment and realise what you have done. This is a HUGE step that should not be underestimated. It is hard amongst the grief, the upset and the day to day realities of holding things together so you can parent and work and manage home life, to have flushed out the very best next chapter to you and your family. Please take a moment to really let this sink in. So many separating couples don’t allow themselves the time or the space to do this. You have given yourself the best possible chance of making that vision a reality by simply knowing what it looks like. It doesn’t mean it can’t change, or evolve, but you have taken a massive important step. Your children will reap the benefits and so will you.
So having this vision of what your life looks like now or once you separate, what does this mean practically?
You may naturally have shaped some of the realities through creating this vision for yourselves. Being really clear about what you want life to look like can help to create the natural practicalities that will make it a reality. But sometimes help is needed. If you haven’t yet worked out how you will determine when your children are with mum, and when they’re with dad then that will form a part of your arrangements. It doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible. Often having a routine helps everyone (including your children) know where everyone is at. Sometimes this is difficult because of changing work commitments. If your routine will vary from week to week then how will you manage this so you always know (and your children) who is where? Some parents manage this through an online diary system. Others through messages and hard copy diaries. There is no right way or wrong way there is simply a way that works for you. Nobody wants children left at school not collected by a parent because you’ve mixed up your days!
Other practical steps that it can be useful to take are discussing what would be a shared parental decision and what is down to the parent the children are with at any one time. It would be impractical to call each other to discuss whether children were allowed a second biscuit, or another half an hour on a tablet. But most parents would accept that decisions such as whether children have a particular operation, or what school they go to would be a joint parental decision. But there are grey areas and it can save difficulties if you are both clear what decisions will be made by the parent the children are with and what decisions you will consult each other on.
There also needs to be a level of dialogue between parents to keep each other updated about any issues. Maybe one child was very down over the weekend? Perhaps one of your children has had a headache and a temperature? Sometimes a teacher may catch one parent after school and the details of that conversation needs to be passed on. How will you manage this? Will you message or email each other? Will you always call about such matters? Is it helpful to have a book that travels with your children that all this information is put in? Discussions about how things will work for both of you (and your children) and then reviewing whether they are working are helpful to managing your arrangements.
It can also help to remove the pressure to find the perfect arrangements. If you are not sure what might work you can trial one system for a period of time and then review how it’s working. Talk about what you like and what you don’t like and then tweak the system you have. It can also help to involve your children in the discussions – if you can have these discussions all together then even better. Children rarely worry about the number of days they spend with each parent. They just want to enjoy their time with each parent and feel that their parents are happy and are reassured by this. So they may have very different things that work for them. My PE kit has been at my other parent’s house twice when I’ve needed it may feel like the biggest disaster in the world. Or they may feel frustration that they like seeing their other parent but they can’t play on their Xbox or Playstation at that parent’s house and that means they miss out on things that their friends then talk about on Monday. Maybe they miss their pet when they got to the other parent’s house. You don’t know what your children may like or dislike about the arrangements unless you ask, or make it clear they can say.
If you find it challenging to talk about any of this, or feel you could use guidance then family mediation is a great place to explore ideas and shape what the arrangements will look like for your family. Your children can also have their say as part of the family mediation process.
If you’d like more information about mediation then please contact us. You can also sign up to our free mailing list, or access our free community of support via the closed Soulful Separation support Facebook group.