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As children grow, their needs change

As children grow up and develop through different stages, they gradually become more involved in the world outside their immediate families. If you and your child's other parent are separated, you may need to review your parenting arrangements as your child's needs change.

Starting nursery and school are both significant steps, usually marking the start of children developing their own social lives. By the time children reach their mid to late teens, it might seem like their friends have become more important than their family.

For separated parents, life transitions like these can also trigger a need to review the childcare arrangements. If possible, it's better for children if both parents are involved in the planning and decision making around these stages and changes.

Older children may want to take on part-time jobs or have weekend sleepovers at their friends’ homes.

When children start school, parents need to consider that parenting time will be built around the beginning and end of the school day and term times. All parents will will also have to take responsibility for making sure homework gets done and school uniform is washed and ready for Monday morning. If your children spend part of the school week at both homes, you will find that good communication and planning are essential to keeping life easy.

If you have a good co-parenting relationship, adapting the arrangements to suit your children's changing needs doesn’t have to be a big issue. If, however, you find agreeing changes with the other parent difficult and avoid discussing the need to review things, you may find things suddenly aren't working anymore.

Most parenting plans have a shelf life of about two years before they need to be reviewed. Sticking rigidly to an outdated plan can be very constricting to children. Be prepared to accept that reviewing the arrangements is a normal part of sharing the joys and challenges of watching your children grow up.

New parents and siblings

It's common for children to become part of a new stepfamily after their parent's relationship ends. The prospect of a baby brother or sister can be exciting to children of all ages, but can also feel like a threat. If you're the other parent, you may have mixed feelings about your ex's new family but your priority should be to  support your children.

If you find it difficult to support your ex, try to see it as an opportunity to show goodwill by accommodating changes to arrangements around the birth of the baby and being flexible around parenting time.

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