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Family Law Blog

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Divorce and separation: coping with different routines and rules

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Rachel Tonkin of Family Lives continues the theme from earlier guest blogs about putting the needs of children first. This time it’s tips and ideas for setting routines and rules agreed by both parents.

After divorcing or separating from your partner, you may find that you have different ways of doing things and different ideas about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Most children can manage new rules in different places, as long as you and your ex-partner are clear about what is expected of them. It can even help them to grow up to be more adaptable people which is definitely a good thing.

It is important that you and your ex discuss what your rules and expectations are for you children, such as bedtimes, rules about mobiles and online time as well as, for older children, agreements about going out with friends and staying over. There will be things which you both think are important and must be the same in each household, and some things that can be different. Being flexible is important and you may both find yourself considering your own rules.

Family traditions can be particularly difficult and you may feel resistant to change how you have done things in your family around special days such as birthdays or Christmas. This is because the new way of doing things is a reminder of the way things have changed, and this can be upsetting. Talk with your children and with your ex about the importance of family tradition and how this makes us feel secure. When they understand why changes to family traditions upset them, you may be able to agree a new formula that combines the best of both old and new.

The issue of presents is a common one for causing bad feeling after a separation. Some parents may use presents to say sorry or to make up for what has happened. It tends not to work because children really need love, security and attention far more than gifts. Since objects never fill the gap, they may get into an impossible spiral of wanting more and more that never actually satisfies. Acknowledge your ex-partner's love for them and desire to do what is best, but explain that expensive presents are not what they need. Time and attention would be far more desirable and more what they would welcome too.

If you would like advice about this topic or any other family issues call our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222.

Rachel Tonkin
Family Lives and ParentChannelTV

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