Child arrangements - what worked for us

We asked people who had sorted out arrangements for their children what worked for them and what advice they would give to other people in the same situation.
Picture of a father and his child

Children know when you're trying to buy their love. And they exploit it! We found that they were playing us off against each other a bit, and we fell for it and started to buy bigger and bigger presents for them. Now we email each other to agree what we’ll each do for xmas and birthdays.


I think it’s best not to show the kids how angry you are with your ex. The best advice I was given was to write it down when I was angry or frustrated with him so I didn’t dump it on the kids and they didn’t have to see me banging pots and pans or stamping round the house after he’d called.


When we were working out when we’d each see the children, we also agreed what the routine and rules were, and made sure they were the same at both homes. It meant neither of us got paranoid that they liked it more at one place or another. It was particularly helpful when our daughter started trying to play us off against each other.


You've both got to be flexible; you won't generally know about things like their friends' birthday parties a long way in advance. To start with I felt like seeing me should come above everything else - but then I realised it wasn’t fair for them to miss out. So we both try and be flexible and swap things about. Some weeks I don’t see them as much as I’d like to, but there’s always next week.


I realised how confused I would be if I never knew where I was going after school. We made a chart for both our flats to show what was happening each day and discussed it at breakfast each morning.


It really bugged me when their dad didn't bring them back on time. Or when he was late turning up and they were all ready in their coats. But now he just texts me if he's running late, and its okay.


I made the mistake at first of always trying to take the children out for a treat. I wanted it to be special. But actually it was a bit much for them and for me. They like being at home or in the park too - just us being together.


I used to ask my boys what they’d done when they came home from seeing their dad but they always seemed really defensive – like I’d be hurt if they’d had fun. So I changed tack. I asked their Dad what they’d done and showed great enthusiasm at his replies. Very soon they were proudly bringing home stories, pictures, even some biscuits they’d made.


The handovers are really hard at first. We could barely look at each other. But I tried hard to be nice about it. And it helped Amy, my daughter, that we could speak to each other, and I could come to the door.


The children used to come back from weekends with Mark all hyper and tearful. I was really worried about it. But my sister said her kids were like that anyway if they'd been out for the day, and I realised she was right. I talked to Mark about it and he agreed to try to get them to chill a bit for the last hour or so.


I think the boys used to be too scared to mention their Dad to me or me to him. I realised this was stressful and weird for them so started to find ways to mention their Dad and his new partner without asking them anything. It felt weird at first but it did the job. They don’t feel they can’t talk about stuff anymore.


Children have their own lives too. It took us a while to strike the right balance between ensuring we have enough time together and making sure the children still get to do the things they want to - like going to football and seeing their friends.


I do a share of the ferrying the girls around even when it’s not ‘my time’ to see them. It makes things easier for everyone and it’s nice to see them even if it’s only for 15 minutes in the car. They tell me all about what’s going on at school or what happened at swimming that they never mention at the weekend.


For more help and advice see A survival guide to sorting out arrangements for your children

November 2016

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