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Anyone changed contact arrangements ?(25 Posts)
Me and my ex split up 6 years ago and since then we've shared the parenting (amicably) of our DS8. We live close by and do our best to minimise disruption for him... however... he's recently developed signs of anxiety (recurrent worry mainly) that's not making him happy. I feel he should spend more time based at my house so he feels he has a 'base'. I just think this kind of contact arrangement could really help him. His dad could take him to park after school and drop him after (maybe.) I'm not suggesting he doesn't stay with his dad but that it's reduced from about 60/40 to 80/20.
But I have no idea how he would react seeing as he has been used to going there more regularly.
Both of us have new partners (v stable) and children and he has step brothers. Anyone with experience of changing contact for the sake of the child - would be really grateful to hear your thoughts.
How do you know it is the contact arrangements that are causing your childs anxiety? Have you tried to discuss what is making your DS anxious. Maybe there is an underlying factor you are unaware of.
I don't know. But have always worried that it doesn't help stability, but was also conscious he should have meaningful contact with his dad (which he does.)
I guess it depends on child/circumstances but I have also worried he's on his own, not sharing it with a sibling, despite having siblings in separate houses.
I think his anxiety is probably age-related as I I haven't experienced particularly anxious symptoms with him before but I also think his temperament is possibly prone.
I just think it might help to be based more in one house. Anyone had any experience?
It's great to see that you're looking at your DS health.
Have you considered DS having his home base with his dad instead of you?
Sounds like confirmation bias to me.
I hadn't considered home base with his dad because he works full time and quite long hours whereas I am at home full time.
Could be a bit of confirmation bias. Maybe that's why I'm putting it out there?
Still, what's important is my son. The shuffling between houses thing is still a debate between child psychologists as to whether it's best for the child.
Quite simply you want your child living with you full time. Its definitely confirmation bias.
I ask again have you or his father spoken to DS to find out why he is anxious.? This whole problem seems to be emanating from you.
No not at all, not sure why you're saying that. I've always wanted him to be with his dad as much as is possible/practical/right for him. We don't know what has caused his anxiety no but it's been quite severe. He had a panic attack. I've read that separation anxiety can kick in at 8/9 years. I have been worrying that it's the stress of moving about between 2 houses and 2 families which is why I'm questioning the current arrangements.
Just one more thing, I noticed a difference him after telling him about terror attacks in London where we live, maybe it's that, combined with his age and living arrangements.
You don't seem to have any actual facts to suggest that it's the living arrangements though. It just seems to fit with your wish.
It could be any number of things.
But nothing will send his anxiety through the roof like his parents falling out.
Anxiety is complicated. It's not always easy to work out what's causing it. It also puts the fear of God into you as a parent - maybe this idea is a result of my protective instinct and I need to explore that but hardly a reason to say that I'm engineering a fact to suit my own desires and needs.
Mother's instinct says it's the transitioning and the fact he has a lot of personal relationships to negotiate (step mum and step dad... who are both great, but still) and the realisation that his parents are divorced - do you really get it before the age of 8/9? He's a clever kid who thinks a lot.
He's doing great at school.
You assume it will mean me and his dad will fall out over it. Says more about you than me. I'm not saying I am absolutely going to change the arrangements, I would put the case to his father, who is as concerned as me, and hopefully get his support.
I'm just exploring it at the moment, and wondered if anyone had tried it with positive/negative results. That. Is. All.
Oh well Mother's Instinct. Why didn't you say so before?
I did but I didn't use the term 'mother's Instinct.' You are projecting your own issues onto mine. Maybe you're the one with confirmation bias.
Have you considered that reducing his time with his df will increase his anxiety when he does go to his house? He'll always be wondering what he did wrong there that meant contact had to be reduced.
I suspect the truth is he is just an anxious child, nothing to do with having separated parents.
Yes I have. Also considered that having a more secure 'base' home will help him feel more settled. He's not been anxious particularly so far. Might just be part of a maturation. Who knows.
I'm also thinking I might tweak the arrangements, not change them dramatically.
Had his dad noticed his anxiety?
If so, what can you both do to help your son navigate it?
Yes he has loads of personal relationships to navigate and a living arrangement that is more complex than lots of other children but that could also mean that he has the opportunity to be supported by a group of adults that love him and want the best for him. Changing things because of his anxiety could make it worse: he'll see more of you but less of his dad and that may well upset him a lot more than you will know.
He will try to show each of his parents what he thinks they want - kids of divorced parents are really good at that.
Tread carefully. What if his fathers instinct said that his anxiety would be reduce if the contact ratio was flipped the other way?
Also it's not up to you alone to 'tweak' the arrangements. You and his dad should be doing this... if possible with the other adults in his life.
No not up to me alone, always in consultation with his dad. Yes absolutely his dad has noticed his anxiety and sadness, you can't miss it, and we are trying to find the best way forward through research, talking and possibly going to see someone.
It's a bit tricky as it's the summer hols and he's with us both for extended holidays. Hard to be consistent and talk to each properly when the other is on holiday.
If we did agree to tweak it it would be a case of one night in a fortnight less at his Dad's.
I think I was asking to find an answer to my guilt of putting him in this situation, particularly the fact he has both a step mum and a step dad, half siblings and step siblings. I used to think that was a positive, now I'm not so sure.
But also to get opinions of shared custody and what has worked best for the child. I've seen friends who have their children for most of the time and their kids seem ok? Depends on the individuals circumstances I guess.
I think he's been hiding his emotions from us too, resulting in this. Hard for a mother to bear. But I have to trust in him and us and in a way it's made me much more conscious parent, when life, work and family has swept me away before.
DSD who is 6 has been to 2 child therapists regarding anxiety and both suggested increasing time with Dad to 50/50. One week with mum then one with dad rather than the current 2 nights one week 3 the other with dad. DSDs mum isn't willing to consider it though
That's interesting. How does his anxiety manifest? Was child therapist saying DS would benefit from a deeper relationship with Dad?
She has periods of terrible seperation anxiety from whichever parent she is leaving at any time. To the point of trying to get out of a moving car once. She wouldn't be alone in a room for awhile. She gets very stressed/worked up over things most people wouldn't think twice about but they really bother her. Her current fear is robbers.
I think their suggestion was two fold. One DSDs mum is also an anxious type (she has good reasons to be) and more time with DH would balance that. As well as week about giving her less changing between homes so she is more settled when in each place.
Yes concerned about the settling, it's hard to know what's best.
Would you mind telling me how therapists helped if they did? Was it CBT based or a more overall psychological approach? New to this!
I don't think either helped much. I think just time and constant reassurance from all of us. The first lady she saw was just after DSDs mum had a new baby and once DSD adjusted to that the worst of her anxiety got better. She saw another lady earlier this year as it flaired up again and it was more like play therapy but all the lady could recommend was to watch her play more observe what she is doing and see if you can get a clue as to what's bothering her. And both recommended changing access. Neither was all that helpful.
We all just spend a lot of time talking to her one on one and teaching her to talk about her worries and fears. Changeover can still be tough and involves a lot of clam reasurrance.
We are lucky that DSD will openly talk to all of us about her feelings.
There are quite a few good books for kids with anxiety and worrys. That could help start the conversation with your DS and get him to hopefully start talking about it and learn ways to deal with it.
Changing access shld be a last resort really especially if the set up you have has been routine for so many years. I know DSD always struggles for a bit if access is altered for holidays etc.
I just want to say that you seem to have a genuine and wonderful approach to this, I see some people are giving you a hard time suggesting this is your selfish reasons etc but I'm not getting that at all.
It's a frightening situation by the sound of it and it's amazing and great to see someone who is working with their ex to put the child first.
Can you talk to DS and gauge his reaction or use the fact it's the holidays to trial a slight change without making it permanent?
Good luck, I do understand, I'm a single Mum and my ex and I have an excellent relationship with our son always coming first.
We both have new partners and are all very stable.
Thanks! It's amazing how people jump to conclusions about motives, probably based on their own prejudices. Nothing new there I suppose. And it's so fantastic for all if you have a good relationship with your ex.
I don't think my ex and I are are perfect but we put our son first and he's got such a large network of people that care deeply about him, it's so upsetting to see him go through this. The main thing is we're dealing with it head on and there are books and therapies available. Such a relief too that it is part of the conversation now. I can't imagine what it would be like for a child to have to live with undiagnosed anxiety, which is basically what happened until quite recently in lots of cases.
You learn so much when your child faces adversity and they do too so I'm feeling hopeful-ish at the moment.
Got 10 days with him coming up to really observe and talk and talk and have fun with him.
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