HM Insights

Shared child contact - four tips to reduce school night stress

As the schools return after the summer holiday, parents will be preparing to embark on the routines of homework, study and resumption of the various clubs and activities that their children undertake throughout the school year. This requires military precision timetabling and an army of standby contacts ready to step in at short notice when the wheels come off the carefully laid plans. Parents prepare for the inevitable war of attrition which commences as soon as the words "study" or "homework" are mentioned and nightly battles to maintain a bedtime regime or schedule that actually occurs at the appointed hour. Weeknights, or "school nights" can be horrible. The relief and relaxation that comes on a Friday and Saturday night is enormous, only for the whole sorry mess to start over again on Sunday evening. 

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The courts regularly have to regulate contact for separated parents. There is one school of thought that children should leave to go to school each day from one "home". Add into the mix described above the requirement to have the necessary kit, books etc and one can readily see why. It may be that one parent is getting "more time" than the other but, is it "quality time"? When children are older and exam pressure mounts, study becomes the norm in the evenings. Is either parent really having time with that child? With apologies for the gender generalisations, many mothers express the view that if their former spouses wanted to take a turn of the midweek hell they would be more than welcome. 

Most parents work nowadays so whether you have had a bad day at work or not, the little darlings still require their fair share of attention (and help with algebra, grammar, and all the other things you have forgotten and thought you would never need again). Whilst no-one wants to see their child get something marked wrong, some parents do admit to a little guilty pleasure if it is their former spouse who has signed homework on that particular occasion and to feeling quite defensive when the shoe is on the other foot. Sharing the joy of midweek is of course possible but does require not only a degree of cooperation but also a Degree in organisational skills from an Ivy League university! 

Where that cooperation can be achieved, the benefits for the family unit as a whole can be profound. 

Some tips to try to reduce the pressures:- 

  1. Recognise that mid week school term time is busy with a lot of demands made on the child's time and that whatever age they are, they need sleep too.
  2. In an ideal world both parents should if they can contribute to the helping with homework, policing bedtimes and taxiing children to and from their clubs, even if indirectly by supporting the parent who is managing this.
  3. Try to avoid measuring and comparing amounts of time and try to avoid one parent doing all the fun stuff and the other being left insisting on early nights and homework.
  4. Seek advice at an early stage if the arrangements in place do not appear to be working. 

Harper Macleod's team of family solicitors understands that divorce and separation can have a huge impact on your life, and can guide you through the best course of action with sensitivity and objectivity. Getting the best advice is crucial to resolving your situation, and there are many options available to you, from litigation and arbitration to negotiation, mediation and collaboration. We have also designed a number of packaged fees which, in certain circumstances, will let you know from the outset what the costs will be.