Shared care and co-parenting: Avoid change-over stress with some common sense tips.

Shared care and co-parenting: Avoid change-over stress with some common sense tips.

kids spaceHaving shared care of children and effectively co-parenting requires negotiation, planning and shared expectations.

Sometimes these can all go out the window, and there is no better example of this than the ‘change-over’, when children go from one home to another and parents are face-to-face.

Whether your child is leaving for the day, night or even a week, a good change-over is an uneventful one. Everything goes to plan: everyone arrives on time, with everything they need, and the swap is calm and amicable.


A change-over that is stressful can have lasting effects on the children, cause irritation and arguments between parents, and can escalate into out of hand situations. It is in everyone’s interests to have change-over times be as calm as possible, and important for your children to see you both acting amicably (friendly and kind is even better!) towards each other.


So, what do you need to know about change-over, and how can you make it easier on your children?


The basics:

  • Have a regular drop off time and place. Routine ensures children feel safe and know what to expect. Knowing the time in advance also helps you to make plans both with your children and without.
  • The location of the change-over can be a contentious issue. School, a local playground, a family member’s home or a local cafe are all options. Police stations are never a good idea – they send the wrong message to your children and may make them feel unsafe. Have a second back-up location, even a third if necessary.
  • Try not to change the drop off time or location without a very good reason, or without sufficient prior notice given to the other party. Your children benefit from consistency, they may miss an important event/appointment, and it can simply cause annoyance to the other person, which should be avoided.
  • Try not to plan important events or appointments within a few hours of swap over, just in case plans do change. Avoid stress by planning to avoid it if possible.
  • Ensure your child has everything they need for time with the other parent, and check these items yourself rather than relying on your child. Have a check list if it helps. Items that are reasonable to provide include their school bag and uniforms, special items of clothing for sporting events or parties, a special toy/dummy/drink bottle. Things that the other party should provide (as should you during your time) include basic clothing, nappies, formula, all food and drinks, and toys/entertainment.
  • Don’t make swap overs the time to air grievances or get into a debate. Choose another time when the children aren’t present.
  • Let your children know what is happening, that you love them and can’t wait to see them again. If you are receiving the children, ensure they feel welcome with a warm hug, rather than part of a stressful change-over.

If you are worried that your change-overs are not civil, or are even dangerous to you or the children, put some plans in place.


When you feel unsafe:

  • Change-over in a public place, where there are operational CCTV cameras. McDonald’s, a local service station, or any area where other people are present and a camera is operating.
  • Ask a family member to swap over for you. Drop the children at a relatives for a play, the other parent picks them up.
  • Utilise a safe place, provided by community services, where you don’t need to see the other person and your children are safe with a social worker for the duration of the swap.

Whatever the state of your relationship with your ex-partner, swap over details should be included in your current parenting plan or parenting orders. You can agree to how the change-overs work (location, day, time, conditions) yourself or through mediation.


Good legal advice can help you negotiate a parenting plan that works for your children and the other party long term, while also considering  any other factors such as domestic violence orders and you and your children’s safety.


Remember, the change-over is part of shared parenting that may need to be done for many years. It’s best to lay the groundwork and reach amicable arrangements as soon after separation as possible. After all, when parents work together to achieve outcomes in the best interests of the children, everyone is happier.






Natasha McGrow is Director and Principal lawyer at Heart Legal – a boutique law firm that specialises in achieving positive outcomes for families. Heart Legal offer free consultations by phone or over Skype at a time that suits you.
Phone: 0423 556 509

Are We There Yet? Fun Games for Kids to Play in the Car.

Are We There Yet? Fun Games for Kids to Play in the Car.

How do your kids go in the car?

Do they sit quietly and soak in the sights whizzing by?

Do they read silently or play with a toy?

Or are they like mine – kicking my chair, talking at a volume suitable only for a football stadium, wanting to listen to crappy songs, asking the same questions over and over and over again?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they’re amazing in the car but some days they’re just rubbish.

For everyone’s sanity, I’ve tracked down some great ideas to keep the kids amused in the car, whether you’re going on a journey or just heading out for a short trip to a friends/shops/wine/coffee shop etc. Some of these could also work on a plane or train trip or when you just need them to chill out for a little bit!

Back seat bingo: follow this link from Little Aussie Travellers  for your free bingo printable, or make them yourself. Each player marks off each item they spot through the car window. You could even laminate them to keep for future trips!

The alphabet game: The idea is to go through each letter of the alphabet and find something out the window beginning with the letters. First one to mark each letter of their sheet wins!

Number plate game: See who can get all the letters of the alphabet first by finding the letters, in order, on passing number plates. You can also try and make funny phrases using the letters on each plate.

Scavenger hunt: similar to bingo, come up with your own list of things to “hunt” and the first one to find everything wins!

Name that tune: put on the kids favourite cd or playlist, play a song for a couple of seconds then pause it to see who can guess the tune first.

Yes or no: Ask each other any question you like but if you answer yes or no, you’re out!

Rhubarb: You must only answer a question with the word rhubarb – whoever laughs is out!

I spy: an oldie but a goodie!

Audio books: for a little bit of quiet time, download children’s stories to your iPad/iphone/ipod, buy some or borrow some from the library.

Lines and dots: I used to play this all the time. You draw rows of dots to cover a page and each person takes a turn drawing one line to connect the dots, the aim is to make a box and the person with the most boxes on the page wins! Free printable page here.

Make a trip bag: before you leave, grab a bag/backpag/shopping bag etc and fill it with activities, snacks, toys, special items like blankies or teddies – anything the kids can use to keep them amused!

Find 20/50/100: Pick something to search for i.e. red cars, cows, road signs etc – race to find 20, 50 or 100 of them!

Surprise package: For longer trips, take some pre-wrapped little ‘gifts’. They can be anything, new or old, like colouring pencils, toys, colouring books, treats, reading books etc. After a certain number of minutes/hours/kilometres, hand out a new ‘gift’ (can be used for bribery too 😉 )

The animal game: for the littlies – each person takes a turn describing an animal so the other can guess which animal it is.

Guess who?: Pick a tv/movie/comic/book character, each person has 20 questions they can use to try and guess who the mystery character is!

Tic Tac Toe/Naughts and Crosses: another favourite, click here for a free printable. 

I’m going on a picnic: an alphabet based memory game, the first player says “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing….” followed by something that begins with A, like apples. Then the second person says  “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing apples and….” followed by something starting with B. Keep going until the end of the alphabet, if you can remember it all!

Happy travels x

Guest Writer – Kate Armstrong

Kate Armstrong is an awesome lego builder, talented eater, average cook, beach lover, story teller, business owner and single mum of two super handsome little boys, Jack (8) and Hayden (4). She spends her time procrastinating, drinking coffee, building her new small business, dreaming of a Fijian holiday and researching the interesting world of ADHD/ADD/ASD/ODD in which she and her boys now find themselves.

Blue Water Creative is her newest baby, offering a vast range of concierge services to local small businesses.

Bunnings Craft for Kids

Bunnings Craft for Kids

Shopping with kids can be a nightmare, and every parent knows it’s the small things that offer relief.

Bunnings have fun for kids nailed. It all starts with the tiny trolleys that allow your little one to ‘help’ shop, or fly up and down the long aisles, running over the toes of customers making their selections. Tiny flags allow you to see them behind displays and the handle is great to gently guide them to the next aisle.

Kids having a meltdown because its been 30mins since they last ate? Bunnings have on-site cafes where you can refresh the crew if the legendary sausage in bread doesn’t entice you. And they are next to fabulous gated playgrounds where little ones uninterested in hardware can let off some steam. The cafe and playground are also conveniently located next to the outdoor furniture (not sure they planned it that way), so you can sit right out the front of the playground and supervise while sipping your coffee (or have a snooze on a banana lounge).

On top of the kid-friendly facilities, Bunnings also hosts DIY workshops including kids craft every weekend.

Bunnings Craft for kids

I’m not sure of times at every Bunnings (you can check your local store here), but my local (Burleigh Heads) has craft workshops every Saturday and Sunday 10-11am.

My little one was given an apron (thank goodness!) and was set loose with some paint brushes. Of course the first thing he did was paint the tablecloth (no no no no no)! The young lady hosting the workshop saw my face and reassured me that at the end of the hour she was just pulling the tablecloth off and bundling it and everything on top of it into the bin (phew!).

Broadwater Parklands – Free Family Fun on the Gold Coast

Broadwater Parklands – Free Family Fun on the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast has a reputation for thrills: theme parks, glitzy nightlife, big surf and meter maids, but there is a lot more to this family-friendly city than meets the eye – or your wallet. The green and gold of our coastline city is bustling with family friendly parklands, cafes and a lot of totally free fun that can fill our long sunny Queensland days.

Our no.1 family destination? The Broadwater Parklands, Southport

If you want to wear out the kids (but not your bank balance) it is the perfect place for you!The Broadwater Parklands are a family-friendly gem loved by Gold Coast residents, and a destination to consider if you are on a short holiday to our city – or on a budget! There is no shortage of free things to do and the kids will fall asleep on the way home – guaranteed!

The Parklands sprawl across three kilometers of waterfront land and include the aquatic centre which will soon host the city’s Commonwealth games swimming events, stretching south to the Sundale Bridge – gateway to Surfers Paradise. Fully landscaped and kept meticulously clean, the Parklands are host to events including holiday celebrations and weekend markets, as well as having some of the best family-friendly playgrounds and amenities, making it the perfect place for kids of all ages to let off some steam!

The jewel of the playgrounds is the Rockpool Water Playground – it’s not for swimming though – this is pure ‘waterplay’ – no floaties required! It is a sculptured ‘creek bed’ full of splash-tastic water fountains and rock pools, filled with cute water creatures, that children will love to play in for hours. The fountains change according to set timings, so children are kept on their toes, or rather being splashed in the eye with a bubbling fountain! Open 7 am- 7 pm during summer, a lifeguard is on duty during opening hours. With plenty of shade, benches, and picnic areas on astro turf surrounds, this is the perfect water play area for even the youngest toddler. One of the best things about this play area? No sand to fill up shoes, swimmers, or the car!

The nearby Fish Shak cafe pours a lovely coffee and makes a mean fish and chips, which at $12.50 is more affordable than a work-day lunch. The cafe has amenities including baby-change area and sits on one of the many pathways overlooking the Great Lawn, the location of our city’s Christmas Carols and regular free family Movies Under the Stars. Check the wall alongside the cafe for upcoming events, or check online here (link:

Follow the wide paths south (the kids can bring their scooters, bikes, roller skates – we’ve even seen a miniature Mercedes convertible cruising the park) to the main playground, which is a combination of ride-on ‘trains’, a pirate ship for the little ones,  a flying fox, swings and a big highlight – a giant inflatable jumping pillow which you won’t be able to drag the kids away from. It’s probably best for kids 5 and up, although the younger kids will still have a try. Just beware that children are literally catapulting in all directions! Fully fenced and with benches around the perimeter, including some in the shade, be prepared to sit here while the kids burn some serious energy.

There is also a bike/scooter ‘obstacle course’,  and equipment for children confined to a wheelchair. On the weekends and school holidays,  free children’s activities fill the park, including craft and sports activities.

Small coffee and ice-cream kiosks set up under the shady trees, and you can also bring a picnic lunch and make use of the many BBQs and picnic tables all over the Parklands (admittedly $12.50 fish and chips is expensive when you have more than a few mouths to feed!).

Grab an ice-cream and venture out on the pier for a spectacular view across the Broadwater. To the east, you can see SeaWorld and watch the helicopters take off on joyrides (kids young and old love to watch this), see the sails of Marina Mirage and the boats anchored in the marina at the Southport Yacht Club. South you can see the Surfers Paradise skyline, breathe in the salt air and feel the love for our gorgeous city. This view is spectacular by day or by night. If you feel inclined you can even drop a line in (there is a bait and tackle shop north of the aquatic centre) or learn about the pier’s history.

Of course, being waterfront land there are lots of swimming options including the swimming lagoon on the Broadwater which is a netted swimming area (the Broadwater and Gold Coast canals are known to be home to bull sharks – best be safe!). Older children will be able to race each other to the pontoon. An inflatable water playground, AquaSplash, is south of the lagoon, although it is not free, it is reasonably priced at about $13 per person. In the afternoons, dolphins sometimes come to feed at the water’s edge. Magic!

The Broadwater Parklands are a fabulous day out where the kids will be entertained all day, you can take a picnic, have a swim, play on the fun equipment and take in the view, all for free. You may even struggle to get the kids to stop for lunch, they will be having a ball!

Parenting Children in a World of Technology

Parenting Children in a World of Technology

It has never been an easy job being a parent, but trying to shepherd kids through the perils of a society saturated with technology makes it particularly tough to be a parent today. With mobile phones, video games, computers, tablets and the Internet to worry about, your battle to carefully guide your child through the landmines of the Information Age is incredibly difficult. It is important that parents arm themselves with all the knowledge possible so that they can create an effective technology policy for their kids. To help you out, use the following guide to make technology a positive part of your children’s lives.


Compromising on Time Spent in Front of the Screen


The sad thing about bringing kids up today is that many of them will spend nearly every waking hour glued to a screen if you let them. To prevent this, you need to set firm limits on the amount of time they spend staring at screens each day. First, it is important to know that no children under the age of two should spend any time staring at screens. When kids are old enough to enjoy screen time, they should not spend any more than two hours a day of leisure time in front of a screen. The rest of their leisure time needs to be devoted to more wholesome activities such as reading, pursuing the arts, playing sports and exploring the great outdoors.


It is not fair to expect kids to shun their screens altogether, but there must be limits. They should only be able to use devices with screens for leisure activities if they take care of their other responsibilities like chores and schoolwork. Using screen time as an incentive is one of the most potent forms of motivation that parents can employ today. It is always good to have the use of technology as both carrot and stick to motivate positive behaviour in your children.


Encouraging Alternate Activities


When you set restrictions for entertainment screen time use to two hours per day for your kids, they are going to need to find positive ways to spend their newfound free time. The best thing you can do is to find ways to encourage your kids to engage in positive activities. With the rising obesity crisis in Australia, encouraging kids to engage in physical activities is especially important.


Setting a positive example is the best way to motivate your kids to be physically active. Get yourself and the kids some surfboards and hit the waves. Go on family walks every evening. Learn to rock climb together. If you are creative, there is no end to the ways you can have fun getting physically fit with your children.


If your kids exhibit any kind of passion for a sport, you should encourage that passion wholeheartedly. Even if it is a sport you do not like or understand, make sure you are there to support your child’s passion. Any blossoming of desire for physical fitness by kids in today’s technology-obsessed society should be nurtured.


Getting a Smartphone


If you are wondering what age you should give your child a mobile phone, perhaps you should take a page from Bill Gates. The man who gave us the modern PC world thinks kids are using too much technology today. In fact, Gates and his wife Melinda waited until their kids reached age 14 to allow them to use a smartphone. The Gates also restrict the amount of screen time their kids get each day. They set times during the day when their kids are prevented from using their gadgets, like during family dinner. Look to their example when your kids point out that their friends get to use smartphones already. When you do finally cave in and decide it’s the right time to get your youngster a smartphone, don’t go too crazy. Chances are, expensive phone will steal all their attention and end up getting broken anyway. Opt for a cheaper, more simple phone to test the waters – if your kid shows restraint and responsibility, you’ll easily upgrade. This cheap Alcatel worked great for me and it’s under 100$, but you might want to consider something that’s water & shock proof.


Bedtime Screen Restrictions


One of the most important times to prevent your children from using technology is before bedtime. Research shows that being exposed to glowing screens prevents the release of the melatonin necessary to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is especially important for kids with their growing bodies. You should prevent your children from using their screens within an hour or two of bedtime to help them get a good night’s sleep.


Raising children in a world of smartphones, mobile phones and easy Internet access is not a simple task. You need to be firm with your guidelines and not let your children use their friends as reasons they need to use technology more. Restricting their use of technology early in life will allow kids to grow and have a better chance of success later in life.