Welcome to 2023

Welcome to 2023.

No doubt you’re busy getting your children ready to start the new school year; buying new lunchboxes, dealing with the dreaded stationary order, battling with the book contact, disposing of mouldy fruit that has been at the bottom of school bags since 20 December 2022 and naming anything that crosses your path.

You might also be dealing with the added pressure of the starting the school year as a newly single parent. Maybe you have been co-parenting for years and the start of this school year is just like the last.

Either way, single parent life can be tough for many reasons. Here are a few tips to help you start the year off in the right way:

As a newly single parent:  

Look after yourself

You are no good to your children if you are not coping. Do what you need to do to help deal with this season. Seek counselling, speak to your GP, fill your own cup as best you can.

Take away your emotion

Easier said than done. But, extensive scientific evidence shows us that the breakdown of the relationship between parents is not what harms kids, it’s the ongoing conflict between parents that has lasting impacts.

When speaking to the other parent in front of your children, try to be as civil and as calm as possible. Speak positively about the other parent to the children and don’t air your grievances about them to the children.

Having child-focussed discussions keeps your children from experiencing trauma. It also helps model appropriate and respectful behaviours for your children for their futures.

Keep the kids in the loop

Your children might now be moving between two houses. This new home life for children adds an extra layer on top of managing a new school year, maybe a new school, homework, and extracurricular activities.

Make a big school term calendar and display it in the house for all to see. Perhaps colour code nights with dad, nights with mum and after school activities. If a different parent is doing school pick up to where the children will sleep that night, put that on the calendar too.

Consider making two copies and give one to the other parent so the children are looking at the same plan no matter where they are sleeping.

Communication

Again, it can be difficult to communicate with the other parent, particularly if the breakup is new.

Work out and agree with the other parent on the best form of communication about the children. Text messages can be less intrusive than a phone call but still instant enough to deliver an urgent message about the children.

Consider proposing that all non-urgent communication or communication not relating to the children should be done via email.

Seasoned co-parents:

Spend time arrangements

Have spend time arrangements changed with the new year in accordance with any changes in your Parenting Orders? Often the Court makes stepped out orders or orders increasing time with one parent in line with the commencement of the new school year. Make sure your children are spending time with each parent in accordance with your Parenting Orders or, as otherwise agreed between you and your co-parent.

Relevance

Consider whether your current Parenting Orders are still relevant in all the circumstances. For example:

  • Have yours or your co-parent’s hours of work changed?
  • Are any children now attending a different school? School drop-offs and pick-ups?
  • Are any children now doing more after school activities?
  • Do any children have jobs?
  • Do any children need a certain environment to focus on their VCE studies?

Communicate the change in needs to your co-parent and, if possible, agree on a change to your arrangement or Orders that will work best for all involved.

Get it in writing

If you and your co-parent have been doing alternative spend arrangements different to what is set out in your Parenting Orders, a quick text message to confirm that’s how things will continue when school goes back is always a good idea.

Confirming in writing any variation to your agreement or Parenting Orders is important. That way there is no confusion, and your agreement to an alternative arrangement is in writing to be referred back to at a later date if needed.

No matter what stage you are at in your co-parenting journey, it’s important that you both do your best to work together for the benefit of the children.

If you would like to discuss your rights or what might be best for your children, please contact us when you are ready.

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