Agreements make life easier
When daily life changes, planning and agreements can greatly simplify life. What is a priority can vary between different children and parents, but communication, residence and logistics are topics that are good to agree on. Here you can read more about the different parts and then move on to “Creating Sustainable Agreements”.
A summary of this article below.
How agreements can help us moving forward
Change and transitions can be challenging for our emotions and energy. One way to take care of yourself, your child and co-parent is to try to reach agreements. This creates the right expectations and provides clarity on what everyone needs to do and what can be expected. It releases energy and creates space for recovery and processing the separation.
Agreement: Contact with the kids when being with coparent
Agree on how the communication with the child should look like when with the other parent. The basic principle is, of course, that the child’s needs should be in charge. As long as the communication is trouble-free and carefree, everything is peaceful and happy. Maybe a parent wants to get in touch to show that the child is in their thoughts. That is nice, but if the contact disturbs the child’s adaptation or prevents them from settling with their other parent, it is better for the child to get in touch themselves. Maybe ask your coparent if the child wants to call after dinner. From school age, most children today have their own cell phones and can control the communication themselves. However, it is not unusual for children to “shut off” the parent they are not currently living with or, conversely, want to stay in touch often in periods. Encouragingly, it’s great to keep communication open and honest between all parties involved, so that everyone’s needs are met.
If the parent relationship is strained, it’s important to find conflict-free ways for your child to communicate. For many, the easiest way is to have a basic rule that the child takes the initiative for contact. You can also agree on certain times to call or video chat and respect what works for the parent the child is currently living with. Children are often sensitive to atmospheres and may avoid contact if they sense the parent they are with gets upset. They will then push their own needs aside to spare the parent. So take responsibility for your behaviour if you know you react to the contact. Step away and do something else while the child talks or video chats with their other parent and avoid asking about what was said during the call. Instead, do something cozy afterwards, especially if the child seems sad or is longing for their other parent.
Agreement: This is how we parents communicate
It is helpful if you and your coparent can agree on both what your communication should focus on (the child, practical matters) and how you should communicate. Different communication channels suit different types of communication. As long as the contact with your coparent is tense, it is beneficial to try to come to an agreement.
For quick updates and quick questions, sending text messages with pictures of your child can help a parent who is longing, having difficulty to relax or can’t resist reaching out in a transitional phase. Agree on when to send such texts and stick to what you have agreed upon.
If the contact is strained, it’s best to reserve phone calls for urgent matters or scheduled calls about things that can’t be solved via email. Maybe you check in on things regarding the child at a certain time every week.
Digital tools such as the co-parenting service Varannan Vecka are an effective way to ensure that the focus of communication is on the children. With the app, you can create a residence schedule for the child, divide and take responsibility for tasks related to the child, check off the child’s items on the packing list, and manage communication in the chat. Take advantage of the AI filter against toxic language. As the children get older, the app can help them to pack their own bag, communicate with both parents simultaneously in the chat, and discuss important issues for the child.
It’s great if you can meet each other. But if it’s uncomfortable, there’s a risk of conflicts or your child getting upset, it’s better to communicate and handle handovers in another way. To check in, you can meet up a couple of times a year without your child to talk about their wellbeing, living schedule, nursery, school, holidays, extracurricular activities and holidays. Choose a neutral place, decide on a start and end time, and prepare by thinking about what you want to discuss with the other parent. In addition to practical matters, the meetings can also help loosen up your old images of each other – hopefully, they’ll be replaced with new positive experiences.
Agreement: Who will attend the child’s activities
Events such as Lucia processions, summer camps, gymnastics displays and football matches are the highlights of childhood. If you find it difficult to be relaxed, take turns in participating. The same may apply to parent meetings and developmental talks. It may feel tense for your child if you sit at opposite ends of the hall at the end of the school year, having to choose who to run to afterwards. Rather split up so that one of you attends the actual ceremony and the other joins for ice cream afterwards.
There is absolutely no place for surprises, conflicts, or anything else that creates an atmosphere other than a relaxed and pleasant one at your child’s activities! Your child’s highlights should be celebrated for what they are. These types of occasions can be quite stressful for children. Taking part in a Christmas play can be nerve-wracking even for those not singing a solo. Since children use us parents for different things, your child might need to bring the parent who is best at helping them relax. This means that strict schedules where you take turns participating in each activity might need to be adjusted for the sake of your child.
It bears repeating: let’s talk about the highlights of the child, not the parents’.
Agreement: Can/Do we want to hang out
If it works out to spend time together, that’s great! It won’t be confusing for your child if you all meet up sometimes, it can be a normal way for them to experience what it’s like to be part of a family.
Let’s prepare for such occasions: “On Saturday I thought me and mum would have dinner together with you.” If you sense that the child might want to stay or follow the parent they don’t currently live with, you need to prepare the child and yourselves in advance on how to handle it. Either it’s okay for the child to decide or you talk in advance about how it will be. Even when it’s not possible to spend time together it is still good to prepare the child for it. Maybe you could say: “Me and dad won’t go to the football game together tonight because we have been a bit cross with each other and thought to let it settle before we see each other again.”
If you or your co-parent feel that it is too hard to meet and socialize right now it must be respected. Time and some space can make it possible to socialize later on.