Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have brunch with their kids every Sunday even though the celebrity couple have split.

Every so often, snippets of celebrity advice carry some nuggets of value, and there is no doubt that Paltrow sets a good example here. Quite simply, children who have parents who are separated but cooperative will do better than those whose parents are locked in hostility.

Living in a rearranged family is a way of life for one in three families in NZ - and it doesn't have to spell the worst for these kids.

Here are seven tips to make sure children maintain a happy life when mum and dad aren't together.


1: Help children to understand that rearranged families are still families

Your children have not separated and you are still their parents, and they have the same siblings, grandparents and extended families, and the same birthdays they always had. Help them to understand that and to talk about how they feel about the changes - whilst reminding them about what has not changed.

2: Demonstrate respectful behaviour towards the other parent in front of the children

If there is one magic bullet, this is it: your child needs to know that even though you no longer want to be together, that mum still says that dad is still a great parent to have and mum says the same about dad.

3: Share birthdays and family occasions and festivals

And be fair about time allotment with both parents. Ever asked a child to choose which half of a chocolate bar they want? Kids are hardwired for fairness.

4: Make sure you have clear adult agreements in place

Using your child as a messenger about money or about how many nights they are to stay with you is a fast way to make your child desperately over burdened and unhappy. Don't do it.

5: Communicate about your children - even by email or text

Your kids need to know you are still in the driving seats of their childhood. Let them know how much they matter to you both. Remove any unnecessary burdens from them about carrying messages and important information back and forth. They are not your personal assistants.

6: Let your kids take their clothes and possessions between their home

Please, please don't make them get changed into 'transit' clothes nor make them leave all their favourite toys behind.

7: Get professional help if you need it

Parenting when separated is a complicated task. But it is possible to do it well by sticking to simple guidelines. One in four children become unwell with a formal mental health diagnosis if they have to live between parents who are locked in acrimony. Sustained conflict at separation, or within a relationship, hurts children, a lot.

Cooperative co parenting, despite separation, will support your children's resilience. Help is available - and getting the parental relationship right for your kids is one of the most important things you will ever do for them.


For more information and a free programme parents can go to the Ministry of Justice website.