“The school summer holidays often lead to separated parents reaching breaking point, as arguments and differences boil over,” says Jane Robey, Chief Executive of the National Family Mediation charity.
“Families find that parenting arrangements that were imposed on them by divorce courts are actually in nobody’s interests. Pick-up, drop-offs and living arrangements that have been tolerable in term-time can be exposed as wholly inadequate when the long holiday comes, fuelling resentments and hostilities, with the child caught helplessly in the middle.”
The charity says a positive Parenting Plan, agreed by the couple with flexibility built in, is easier to achieve than many people think.
“A Parenting Plan is an agreement made by separated parents, covering how the children will be supported and cared for in the years after separation,” adds Jane Robey. “Its value is that you both tailor it to suit your own circumstances. Over time, as the lives of separated families change, the Plan will need to be revisited. Most important to recognise is that it’s not just the parents whose needs change; the children’s do too.
“The starting point this summer is an open mind; an acceptance that while the parents’ own relationship can’t be salvaged, the vital bonds between child and each parent can – and must – go from strength to strength.”
National Family Mediation urges parents to adopt an ‘ABC’ approach:
- Accept that, while your own relationship is over, the child’s interests come first
- Believe in your own abilities to both be good parents even though you live apart
- Chart the way ahead, using mediation to negotiate through differences
“The last thing separated parents want is to sit down together and look for common ground, but it’s vital for the child’s benefit that agreements are made,” says Jane Robey.
“Family mediation is a process that enables parents to reach agreements without the stress of a courtroom drama. An expert mediator works with a couple, in separate rooms if necessary, helping them find ways to stay in touch with their children and enabling them to find ways of communicating with each other more effectively.
“None of this means parents have to get on with each other after they separate. But it does mean they can find different ways of co-parenting for the benefit of the child. After all is said and done, the child isn’t at fault and deserves the very best from both parents.”
Parents who want to know more can use the online ‘find a local mediator’ facility at www.nfm.org.uk/local or call 0300 4000 636.