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Changing Your Parenting Plan – FREE Workshop in Oshawa Sept 15, 2016
Sep 6th, 2016 by Families First Mediation

Your parenting plan is a living breathing document. It can change with the needs of your family and your children. These conversations need to happen and they are often challenging.

Debbie Miles-Senior from Side By Side Supervised Access Services and Julie Gill of Families First Mediation & SeparationCoach.com join forces to help you answer the questions:

  • Why would I need to change my parenting plan?
  • Why are these changes so difficult and how do we make the changes?
  • What if we don’t agree?
  • How involved should children be?
  • Whose plan is it anyway?

Please join us for an open discussion as we provide answers to these questions and others.

Children Change - Flyer Parenting Plans

 

How Will Your Children Remember Your DIVORCE?
Oct 26th, 2015 by Families First Mediation

Do you know the answer to the question – How will your children remember your divorce? It’s an important question and unless your children are very young they will remember it. If they are very young they will grow up with the tension or friendliness that you created during your divorce process.

couple fighting in front of kid

You have all heard the stories; fathers that have limited access to their children, parents that don’t pay support, couples that are in and out of court each time the children are brought back from a visit late, tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and several years have passed only to end up with an agreement that doesn’t meet anyone’s needs…especially the children.

What is the common mistake that most of these parents made?

They ended up in a battle to see who would win!

(Do you think perhaps they lost focus on what was really important? The children?)

Many times differences, mistrust, emotions and/or the inability to communicate cause parents to lose focus on the children’s needs. It is essential during a divorce to separate the adult relationship issues from the parenting issues.

Know Your Goals

Do you want to reduce conflict and confusion for your children?

Do you want to keep some of the family money to be used for your new lives instead of costly legal battles?

Do you want to encourage a good relationship between your children and your ex?

Do you want to be able to go to your children’s extra-curricular activities, graduation and wedding without shooting daggers at your ex? Do you really want to make these exciting events stressful for your children?

Know Your Options

First and foremost, get informed. Read what you can on the internet, there is a great deal of information available. Use your local library as a resource. Visit the Family Law Information Centre available at many of the court houses. Schedule a consultation with a lawyer. Part of knowing your options is knowing your rights and those of your children.

Will it be a friendly divorce where you can work through the issues at the kitchen table? Perhaps a do-it-yourself kit available online will do the trick or you’d like to file the papers yourself. The advantage of course is the cost. However, it can be time consuming, confusing and frustrating.

Can you sort some or all of the issues out by yourselves? Maybe mediation is the best fit for your family. The advantages are that you pay only one professional, you have complete control over the decisions, you set the pace and it is less stressful than court. Mediation allows you to have the legal process as a fall back. This is often not a suitable option if there are significant power imbalances or domestic violence.

Maybe you feel that you are not able to negotiate with your ex-partner and require a lawyer to handle everything but you don’t want to go to court. Collaborative lawyers can help you both work through your issues under an agreement that you will not go to court. This can be less stressful and less costly than the traditional lawyer-lawyer negotiation process. If you do not however resolve your issues and you wish to proceed to court you must retain new lawyers.

And of course there is always the combative court process for divorce. Does the story below sound familiar?

Parents who spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers that didn’t get along. They ended up in court several times only to get adjourned with no resolution to their issues. They lost any remnants of kindness that they once had for each other. They have a great deal of legal debt and are uncertain about their financial future. They are so stressed that they have lost a great deal of weight without ever having to go to the gym!

Did you listen carefully as they told you about how difficult it was for the kids?  Mom and Dad fighting all of the time, not knowing whose house they were going to sleep at, who they could say what to or who was going to take them to hockey and swimming lessons.

The reality is that there is no one-size fits all divorce because each family and each set of circumstances is different. What works for your family may not work for another.

Creating a parenting plan, by any means, as a first step in your separation is vital to a successful separation. Staying focused on your children allows you to start communicating and making decisions within the boundaries of your new relationship.

Normally lack of trust and emotions factor into how detailed a parenting plan should be. The less trust between the parents, the more detailed the plan should be. Both parents should have a voice and communicate directly regarding what is best for the children.

Once your parenting responsibilities are sorted you can move on more successfully with other aspects of your separation.

Create a divorce transition plan that works for your family. There is no right or wrong way to go about that, plans can be as unique as your family.

How will your children remember your divorce? Well, it’s up to you. Making positive choices during your divorce is the biggest success factor for how well your children handle and remember the transition.

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner and Principal Mediator

Families First Mediation

9 Tips To Bonding In A Blended Family
Jun 15th, 2015 by Families First Mediation

Think it’s tough to bond in a blended family? You’re right it can be, but there are ways to make it easier.

Due to the sheer number of divorced families it stands to reason that many couples entering into new relationships both already have children. When these families come together there are many changes that need to be considered and planned for.

Ashley and Jeff have been dating for 6 months and are talking about moving in together. Like many other couples now a days they are both divorced and have children from those marriages.

They are excited to have found each other and want to share their lives together. The children have met on quite a few occasions and seem to get along well. Ashley and Jeff really want this new relationship to work and talk at length about how best to manage it. They refer to the Brady Brunch regularly hoping that their new family will unite just like that one.

Much like their divorces, this is a transition forced on the children due to the parents needs. Ashley and Jeff know that they need to be focused on the best interests of their children during this time. They have decided to create a parenting plan to help them have conversations, make decisions and guide them through what they hope will be a successful transition into a blended family. Ashley and Jeff think that it may be a good idea to share some of their plan with their ex-partners to ensure they have a comfort level around the new people in their children’s lives. Ashley and Jeff feel that their children are old enough to have a voice and be part of the process. They are choosing to create the parenting plan through a series of family meetings. Some sections will be decided solely by Ashley and Jeff as the parents and adults, other sections will be created using feedback from the children.

Here are some tips that Ashley and Jeff are following to ensure that their transition is successful. They can work for you too!

  • Resolve your divorce first – How you manage your divorce can play a significant role in the success of future relationships. Bringing unresolved issues and emotions into a new relationship will certainly create challenges.
  • Create a parenting plan – Discuss and agree to such topics as discipline, rules, behaviour, parenting/step parenting roles. Rules should be consistent in the house and expectations as well as consequences should be clear.
  • Be respectful of the natural parents – There are roles for parents and step parents. Children will feel safe if the transition from home to home is smooth and if the parents and step parents are respectful of the other’s relationship with their children.
  • Continue the strong relationship with your own children – As you work hard to build a relationship with your step children it is often easy to take the relationship with your own children for granted. You will need to pay equal attention to your own children so that they don’t feel displaced during the transition.
  • Talk to the children – Don’t spring it on them; let them know of your intentions early on. Make sure they have a voice and that you are responsive to their concerns. Help your partner do the same.
  • Remember each child is unique – Children will adjust in their own way in their own time. Children need to develop relationships on their own…not be ‘forced’ into them.
  • Line up parenting schedules if and when you can – In order for the kids to bond they need to spend time together developing as a family. Special occasions and holidays will want to be spent together when they have bonded.
  • Quality Time – Ensure each parent spends time with their own children, with their step-children and also equally as important with each other to continue to develop and strengthen their relationship.
  • Get professional support if required – The help of counsellors or mediators may make your transition smoother.

Remember, your children want to see you happy and in a healthy relationship. You in turn want to show your children what a healthy relationship looks like. It will take some time and effort but it will pay off if you plan this transition and see it through.

Enjoy the chaos. It won’t last forever.

Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Owner, Families First Mediation

 

Parenting Plans & Teens…How To Handle Changes
Oct 7th, 2014 by Families First Mediation

You have been divorced for 6 years. Your parenting plan did an excellent job of identifying when each of you would be the “active” parent and spend time with your kids. It set out how you were going to parent, how you would handle holidays, expenses and how you as parents would make changes to the plan.

parenting teen

 

Surprise, surprise, your 15 year old has decided that your parenting plan no longer works for him/her. Did you discuss during your separation how you would handle changes that were initiated by your children?

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