10 Rules For Contact Arrangements
- Your children come first Separation can be a 'selfish', but proper choice. Questions about the children should take priority over all other issues, emotional and practical. Whatever your part in the separation, when it comes to the children, your own feelings and needs may have to be put to one side.
- The other parent loves your child as much as you do. Love for a child is simple and unconditional. You may not see this in your former partner; under stress, people behave strangely, and often against their own better judgment. Their ability to show this love may be lost, but it remains no less than yours. Even if you cannot quite accept this, allow the possibility. It is the best starting point for dealing with contact. If you cease to believe, try again.
- Acknowledge your own fear that your relationship with your child is at risk. Ask how that fear has coloured your own approach to issues of contact and residence. Why should the other parent not have similar feelings? Do your best to remove groundless fears in your former partner's mind. With those fears removed, he, or she, will have less need to react to you in fear, and will have much less reason in turn to give you cause for fear.
- Keep your child informed, keep listening. Do not take everything your child says at face value. A child may say everything is fine, when they are deeply hurt, and sometimes vice versa. He may say he does not want to see the other parent when he does. Listening to your child can be the greatest contribution you can make to your child's happiness.
- Decisions remain yours, not your child's. It can be tempting to avoid being seen as the baddie, by leaving a decision to your child. The relationship between parents as partners has broken down, but you are both still parents. The responsibility remains yours, and a child can easily feel, when forced to choose one parent, that he is rejecting the other.
- Situations change. After a separation, there is constant change and much tidying up. Six months later, new lives are being built. Two years later children will have different interests and demands on their time. Any contact arrangement must mature with all those involved.
- You only have control over yourself. You cannot force others to do anything. Look at those things which you can do yourself, to try to resolve issues. Doing those things you can do, is the best way of persuading others to do the same.
- Mediation is not for 'when all else fails'. There is much useful experience available through your mediator to prevent conflict and to resolve it when it arises. We can put you in touch with mediation services if you wish, and will suggest it, when it seems appropriate.
- Make no promises you cannot keep. Make little promises, and keep to them - exactly. Separation happens amid a breakdown in trust. Not turning up on time for contact, or not having the kids ready makes matters worse. Unless trust in your word is restored, the contact will eventually break down.
- Little contact but reliable We often recommend that parties take the level of contact that they would first want, then halve it. Each parent, and if old enough the child, then promise that, come hell or high water, they will do what is necessary to make sure that contact happens precisely as agreed. In between these times, if all agree, additional contact can take place. This allows people space to make a new life, turns promise breakers into promise keepers, and allows variation without promises being broken.
- Pay little heed to lists. Everybody is different, and your situation will demand other approaches from those described here. Believe no-one who tries to sum it all up in ten easy steps.