Tag Archives: children

Summer Activities for families in Bedford & Bedfordshire

  • Box End Park, Kempston, Beds. Kids Aqua Multi Activities boxendpark.com Tel: 01234 846222

‘Box End Park is a truly unique destination within the UK. Incorporating an amazing, giant Aqua-park, premium Water-ski and Wakeboarding facilities, a lakeside bar and restaurant and meeting and function rooms. We offer brilliant activities for both adults and children. Click on the links below to learn more about what you can do.’

  • Woburn Safari Park. Road and Foot Safari with soft play area, railway, high ropes, outdoor play area, plus handle and meet the animals info@woburnsafari.co.uk Tel: 01525 290407
  • Open Air Theatre Swiss Gardens, Old Warden, Beds – Wind in the Willows show; Friday 25 August 2017. Gates open 5.30pm and show starts at 6.30pm. Tel: 01767 627933
  • Open Air Theatre Bedford Park, Bedford – Wind in the Willows Saturday 2 September 2017 Tel: 01234 351104
  • Bedford Town Centre Beach and Children’s Fare, Harpur Square, Bedford. 6 to 13 August 2017. Punch and July shows and rides. Free entry. Tel: 07976 813639
  • Higgins Gallery and Museum Castle Lane, Bedford. Free entry to museum on Fridays and after 4pm Tuesday to Thursday. Family drop in sessions for Arts and Crafts and museum tour. 22/23/25/29/30 August and 1 September. Times 11am/12noon/2pm/3pm for 1 hour. Price £2.70. No booking required. Children must be aged 3 and above and must be accompanied by an adult. Separate exhibitions include Edward Bawden (Artist and Designer) Shorts Brothers (Airships built in Bedford) and Art of the Victorians. higgins@bedford.gov.uk Tel: 01234 718618
  • Wimpole Hall, Arrington SG8 0BW Tel: 01223 206000 National Trust owned hall and farm. Junior 2 KM park run every Sunday for ages between 4 and 14 years. Free. Meet the animals at Home Farm and walk in the park on Wednesdays through the summer holidays from 11am to 1pm. Free. Harvest Folk and Farm to include music, songs and celebration from 28 August to 3 September  2017 between 2-4 pm (Tel: 0344 800 1895)

Bedford Summer Activities for Kids 2017

  • Jungle Jims 5 Tyne Road, Middlefield Industrial Estate Sandy Beds SG19 1SA. Indoor play centre. Tel: 01767 682808
  • Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable Beds LU6 2LF. 2,500 rare and exotic animals. Be a keeper for the day and explore the animal trial. Tel: 01582 872171
  • Bird of Prey Activity Farm , Herrings Green Farm, Cotton End Road, Wilstead, Beds MK45 3DT. Tel: 01234 742362 Pat a Pet. Owl Flying. Shire Horses
  • Lego Brick Wonders, Stockwood Discovery Centre, London Road, Luton. Lego recreating sights and monuments from around the world. July 22 to 3 September 2017. Tel 01582 878100
  • Magical Fairy Trails at the Swiss Gardens, Old Warden, Beds 1-31 August 2017 enquiries to shuttleworth.org
  • Gulliver’s Theme Park, Summer Finale with fireworks in the evening on 2 September 2017 gullivers.co.uk

 

Co-Parenting after separation

The fundamental principle, when dealing with cases involving children, is that their welfare is paramount and their best interests must come first

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Sometimes parents dealing with their own emotions forget their children may also be suffering. Their lives will change and it isn’t always appreciated how much an impact a separation can have on a child. If their parents are in constant conflict it will hurt and upset them. This can lead to anxiety and depression. A child can be burdened by parental conflict and an acrimonious separation can affect their schooling, peer relationships and their emotional well-being, even into adulthood.

What do children need?

To:

  • be loved and supported.
  • feel safe and secure.
  • have routine and stability.
  • have a relationship with both parents.
  • see their parents communicating and co-operating.
  • have their wishes and feelings considered.
  • have a voice –to be heard.

How can mediation help separating couples make arrangements for their children?

A mediator can assist by helping parents to discuss how to care for their children and how to communicate with about those arrangements.

The first decision to be made is where the children are to live and if they are to have a principle home or an arrangement for shared care. Whichever arrangement is chosen, details will need to be discussed, so that the children can spend time with each parent. The mediator and parents will concentrate on establishing a structure for the children to spend time with both parents, with some flexibility. If the children are old enough and want to have a say – this is possible in mediation.

Reasonable notice should always given for any changes to the agreed routine. The key to successful co-parenting is good communication between the parents. Mediation helps you work out what form of communication will suit you best.

A Focus mediator will take parents through the various arrangements that may apply. Weekends, what is to happen during school holidays (Easter, Summer and the three half terms). It is important arrangements for Christmas are decided on and this can be very difficult, also what is to happen when special occasions arise that might affect the children’s planned routine.

How can a child have a voice in mediation?

Focus Mediation offers Direct Consultation with children, with specially trained DBS checked mediators, if both parents and the children agree to this. The children will meet with the mediator to discuss their wishes and feelings and the mediator will relay back to the parents what the child wants to say. This often helps a child who is worried about speaking to their parents directly.

Co-Parenting Plans

Once decisions have been made about the arrangements for children a Co-Parenting Plan can be prepared by your mediator, setting out details of all issues referred to above. This document sets out the arrangements that parents intend to follow with their children.

For more information go to www.focus-mediation.co.uk

 

 

“Court costs?? I don’t have to worry about lawyer’s fees! I’ll represent myself!!”

This was the thought of Mr Veluppillai who decided to represent himself against his wife in divorce proceedings recently in what the judge called “a routine needs case after 20 years of marriage.” Not only did Mr Veluppillai not save himself money, he ended up with a costs order against him of £150,000.It seems that the Judge found in favour of his wife whose proposals were described by commentators as eminently sensible. A lose lose situation for Mr Veluppillai.

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Admittedly this case is extreme. Here, the husband did cause there to be over 30 hearings in front of the court, he ended up assaulting his wife’s barrister and his wife in court, was convicted of assault, fled the country and sent the court abusive emails saying he had a fatal illness and that the proceedings should be adjourned indefinitely! The eventual outcome was that an order was made allowing the wife to sell off one property to pay off the mortgage on another and this also provided a fund for her to set up a business, amongst other things.

The point to take from this is that going to court, whether in person or with your lawyer, means engaging in a battle, starting a fight and sometimes people lose perspective in their desire to win. But there is no winner here. The bottom line is that there is less money available to divide between the separating couple at the end of the day. And immense bad feeling between them.

Another approach is mediation. In mediation we start from the place where separating couples say: “it went wrong, we can’t put it right but by blaming and punishing nothing is mended. Let’s work together to build workable futures for us both”.

Yes. We do tell clients that this is hard work.  But a lot less stressful than fighting and cheaper than the £150,000 that Mr Veluppillai will be handing over to his ex-wife’s lawyers.

What’s your story?

Any parent facing six weeks of summer holidays has the challenge of keeping the kids entertained, and if you have separated from your partner, the challenge is even tougher.

The Oxford Story Museum does a fantastic job at offering diversion for families who love reading. http://www.storymuseum.org.uk

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Their imaginative conversion of a rambling old house on Pembroke Street now offers rooms where children can take part in a fabulous array of book-related activities.

There’s an Illustration Exhibition with a live ‘Illustrator Zoo’; the chance to dress up and sit on the Talking Throne; a giant bed, where all sorts of people are reading bed-time stories – and there are rooms rigged out to feel like a scene out of people’s favourite books – Treasure Island, Narnia – where you can snuggle up and read stories to your heart’s content.

We all love stories. As adults, we develop the knack of creating a story in our heads about how life is treating us – usually unfairly ­– and when our marriage breaks down, that story becomes a script we hang on to, to prove how badly the other person has behaved, and how awful they made us feel.

In family mediation, those stories are important. Focus mediators always start by asking each person to spend an hour just talking about themselves, in private, in complete confidence, so that the mediator gets the hang of how things look from both points of view, and each of you feels heard. But when the joint sessions start, at which you come together with the mediator to discuss the issues you’ve got to sort out – arrangements for the children, what’s happening about the house, how is maintenance going to work, and what about the pensions – those stories become less important. It’s not about who did what anymore; it’s about who is going to do what, so that you can both move forward into your independent lives. Not exactly stepping through the wardrobe, and not nearly so much fun, but a constructive, reasonable, mature way of dealing with divorce. It’s comparatively quick, and cheap – and the kids will thank you for it.

Control, Leverage and Letting Go of Relationships

As mediator I see hundreds of couples at the point where they are negotiating their arrangements for separation and divorce. It is fascinating. Many of them say they ‘Just want what is fair’ and that ‘They just want to sort it all out as quickly as possible’. They may well then embark on behaviour and an approach to negotiations that will ensure exactly the opposite happens, it does not get sorted quickly and what they want is what the want and it may not be fair. They bring their couple boundaries into mediation where they have to be managed by me as the mediator to achieve a fair negotiating balance between the parties to mediation. So the so-called controller will have to let go of his or her influence over their ex partner and they will find this very hard. As mediation progresses it often becomes clear that the couple will never agree what is fair because this is an opinion seen through the lens of their self interest. It is possible to argue endlessly about fairness and people often feel very strongly about certain things, even when in law these things may make no difference at all. In most cases the main question is ‘How can these assets provide for you both and any children? What is practical?’ On divorce there is no forensic accounting and handing back of contributions made 20 years ago and the partner who has worked in the home childrearing and housekeeping is treated equally to the partner who has earned the income on which the family has lived.

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Controllers may seek to use their historic influence in negotiating their settlement in mediation. An effective mediator helps the couple to re-define their couple boundaries, especially the ones relating to influence and control and re-balance the two people on a consciously more equal footing, something both necessary and extremely uncomfortable. An example may help:

Towards the end of the mediation when the issues have almost been resolved, one party may hesitate, and delay booking the final session. They may raise additional issues and appear to start new or old arguments, running the risk the mediation will collapse and court will be the only option, this holding the couple stuck in their existing boundaries for longer with historic levels of control and influence. What are they afraid of? They may be unconsciously afraid of losing control or influence of their nearly ex partner.

My heart always sinks if I hear someone worrying about ‘Leverage’. That is not a good word, it imports a world of meaning associated with the exploitation of a dominant negotiating position to exercise non consensual control. The controller will fear loss of control mightily and will seek to retain it. They may well also complain bitterly about lack of communication with the controlled or leveraged person. They will not understand the connection between the leverage they are accustomed to exercising and their poor communication with their victim. As I said to one divorcing man recently, as he twitched nervously about his loss of financial leverage on settling his finances with his ex wife, ‘Have you ever thought if you didn’t have any leverage over her, your relationship with her might improve and with it your ability to communicate over your children?’ He looked at me with real fear and lack of comprehension, so I held his eyes and said ‘Just think about it!’

Kids come first

“The Randolph Hotel is on fire!” As my bus pulled around the corner, everyone turned to look out of the window: a plume of black smoke was spiralling up from the top of the Randolph’s central tower. People were stopping to stare, and as we moved up the road, we met the inevitable volley of sirens.

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A small boy, his eyes shining, turned to his Mum and crowed with excitement. “There’ll be fire engines and hosepipes!” Then his eyes grew troubled. “What if there are kids in there? They’ll get burnt, won’t they? They’ll be trapped…” His anxiety was infectious.

“Oh, don’t worry, said his Mum: they’ll get the kids out first.”

Because kids come first don’t they. Always. It’s one of the unwritten principles of life. We prioritise the needs of the children, because they are vulnerable and they cannot look after themselves. We have to meet their needs.

But how easy is it to apply this principle when a marriage breaks down and all you can think about is where you are going to live? Is it possible to put the kids first – to rescue them from the debris of your marriage – so that their needs come first?

At Focus Mediation, we can help you both face the uncomfortable truths involved in separating your lives, and devise a way forward which makes sure the kids don’t get burnt. We give you a safe, neutral space in which to discuss your hopes and fears. And we can talk to the children themselves, if you think that would help. Sometimes, hearing what they think and knowing what they want to save out of the wreck can be very useful.

Exam Time in Schools- What price do children pay when parents are breaking up?

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When parents’ relationships break down, the aftershock is felt by all those around them. The first to be affected are often the children.

In November last year, Resolution (1) commissioned research which surveyed 14-22 year olds about the effect of their parent’s break-up, asking how it had directly affected them.

The survey uncovered that

  • One in five(19%) said they didn’t get the exam results they were hoping
  • The majority (65%) said that their GCSE exam results were affected 
  • 44% said A-levels suffered.
  • 15% said they had to move schools, which may have had a knock-on effect on exam results.

Children also experienced difficulties away from the exam room.

  • Almost a quarter (24%) said that they struggled to complete homework, essays or assignments. And
  • more than one in 10 (11%) said they found themselves “getting into more trouble at school, college or university,” and
  • 12% confessed to skipping lessons.

Parents often ask us how they can minimise the effects on children and reduce the impact that their break-up has on their children’s academics and potentially their future career prospects.

At Focus Mediation, our mediators will keep your children firmly in the centre of the picture when discussing divorce and separation. We can help you to help your children in the following ways:

1 By keeping it out of court

Mediation is a way to work out how best to separate in a way which has the least impact on your children. Going to court is hard on those involved and those around them- it’s how you imagine it and ten times worse in terms of stress and often in terms of time spent and costs incurred.

2 Make agreements about what you say and do in front of the children

In mediation we can help you to set ground rules for yourselves about how you will speak to each other and conduct yourselves in front of the children and the extent to which they will be involved in what is going on for you. This is invaluable when feelings are still raw and emotions difficult to contain.

3 Make contact arrangements children-focused

Our mediators can help you to make agreements which meet your interests whilst keeping the wellbeing of your children in the foreground at all times.

It is important that your children have time to study and time to relax as well as spending time with the two of you.

As mediators we will always test with you the reality of any proposals which could inhibit their ability to learn and to flourish. At the very least we can help you to make child-centred arrangements to get your children through this stressful summer period of exam preparation and performance.

It is difficult enough for young people in this academically competitive world where every grade counts. Most parents will fully support the creation of a plan which eases the pain and the difficulties inevitably caused by their break-up which impact on their children.

4 Joined up Parenting

No child likes to be caught between the two opposing views of the people we are closest to. In mediation, we can also help you to smooth out any foreseeable future bumps in the road: we can help you to look at what happens if you disagree on choices your children make, how you want to communicate with each other and the extent to which you can co-parent in a joined up way, even though you are no longer together.

Having safe parameters within which they can operate is also vital for children, particularly as they grow older and behaviour can become more challenging. Remember: any gaps in communication are easy to exploit for a wily teenager!

5 Speaking to your children, enabling their voices to be heard.

Finally, we offer direct consultation with your children, enabling them to have a voice in the changes taking place. We speak confidentially with them, away from mediation and then, with their agreement, feed back to parents what they want them to hear, without fear of taking sides or hurting your feelings.

Because from what we hear when we consult children, they care as much about you as you do about them.

Any thoughts about this, please do Tweet us 

or share your thoughts on our Facebook page – we welcome your feedback and comments

 

 

[1] the body representing 6,500 family law professionals in England and Wales,

Why choose Focus Mediation in Hemel Hempstead, St Albans or Watford.

If you are looking for help with separation or divorce, and you live in or around Hemel HempsteadSt Albans or Watford, you have come to the right place.

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Mediation is the new way to approach divorce and separation. You can discuss how best to share your parenting focusing on the children’s needs. It can be a worry as to how you are going to manage financially. We can work with you, look at your budgets and sort out a plan that makes it possible for you both to go forward.

Your Focus mediator will help you negotiate the settlement that you feel suits you both, speeding up the process and dramatically cutting your costs. Focus works with you at your pace, efficiently and cost effectively to help you sort everything out. Our mediators work full time on family mediation: they have chosen to specialise in family mediation because they believe that it is a positive way forward for separating family. Focus mediators are family mediation specialists who have mediated for hundreds of couples – and this experience shows.

Free Easter Activities: Easter on a shoe-string for separating parents

The Easter Holidays are here and many single parents will be trying to work out how to keep their children entertained without it costing the Earth.

At Focus Mediation we are aware of the implications of separation on parents: there is often a desire to make time with your children special and when one household is split into two, this is also the time when you are feeling the pinch financially.

Although the cost of living in London is high, we are also lucky to have a wealth of free events laid on for us. Here are a few offerings which might keep your little ones amused and won’t break the bank! Let us have you feedback on Facebook or Twitter if you go to any good free events so we can pass on your thoughts and recommendations to single parents.

1       The Passion of Jesus- with horses, donkeys and doves!

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Wintershall Players are in charge of this piece of theatre with a cast of over 100 which promises to be an amazing specatacle. The performances are on 3rd April at Trafalgar Square at midday and 3.15 pm- see http://www.passionofjesus-trafalgar.co.uk/ for map and details.

2       EGGstraordinary Fun!

From 30 March – 2 April & 7 – 10 April the Bank of England are running free activities for children including an Easter Egg Hunt

“ Children can follow the treasure trail around the museum to hunt for the hidden chicks and egg. There is a chocolate egg for every child who takes part. Children can then express their creativity by decorating an Easter finger puppet to take home. “

See http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/education/Pages/museum/exhibitions/eggstraordinaryfun.aspx for more information about other things taking place such as the “discover Gold” exhibition. It all sounds both tasty and informative.

3 Selfridges Easter Egg Hunt

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From 10 am on 2nd,3rd and 4th April. Chocolate goodies are to be found across the 4th floor for those who are looking! Somewhat dangerously located in and around kids toys so be prepared for some window shopping too

4 Easter egg hunt at Gabriel’s Wharf

The organiser’s say: “Come along this Easter Saturday and hunt down delicious chocolate eggs hidden in and around the designer craft shops at Gabriel’s Wharf.”

Date: 4 April 2015

Time: 11:00am – 6:00pm

Venue: Gabriel’s Wharf

Price: Free

Should I book? No

Age Range: All ages

See http://coinstreet.org/events/ for other events on in this area including a mass-sculptural performance at Oxo Tower Wharf perhaps suited more to older children.

 5       Ellie Castle’s Easter Hunt-

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This is an interactive performance for 5-10 year olds taking place at the Artworks at Elephant and Castle. The audience help Ellie to find out why the weather has changed in remarkable ways: the sun starts singing, the clouds have gone away and the rain has turned to chocolate!

The event is happening at Art Works Elephant which is a new creative hub working out of shipping containers in Elephant and Castle. Performances take place across the day at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 2pm and 3pm and last around 40 minutes- an interesting diversion!

And one more.. for the Under 5’s, the Museum of London Docklands has the Mudlark’s Children’s

Gallery where they learn to explore with soft play and moving models. Entry is FREE but you will need to collect a timed ticket from the main desk on arrival. The gallery is open to the public all day during school holidays and at weekends – See more at: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/visiting-us/visits-families/under-5s/#sthash.ushY5H0D.dpuf

The Museum also has storytelling, workshops and a host of free family events- check this link for details: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/whats-on/family-events/holidays/

Finally netmums.com have a great “Free places to go in Greater London” link : http://www.netmums.com/activities/free-family-fun/best-free-places-to-go-greater-london-region

And another good one: “101 ideas for free family fun”

http://www.netmums.com/activities/free-family-fun/101-ideas-for-free-family-fun

Wishing you a very happy Easter.

Focus Mediation

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Mediation in Oxford: Fast and Affordable: An Outbreak of Sanity for Separating Couples.

Mediation has been around for at least thirty years and is now used by a vast proportion of separating couples. It is actively promoted by the government and the courts as the preferred way for couples to sort out their separation. Oxford judges frequently recommend couples to mediation instead of battling it out in their over-crowded Family Court. They will not start a new case unless the couple has first met with a mediator to find out about mediation. Here is a guide to what is involved when you come to Focus Mediation in Oxford.

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You start by coming to a MIAM: a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. This is time spent alone with your Focus mediator, who will want to understand what has happened to you. She then explains the process of mediation. You can come to the MIAM on separate occasions, or you can come as a couple: either way, you get time alone with the mediator and a full explanation of what lies ahead.

Once you had your MIAM, the joint sessions start, spaced to suit you, your timetables and what you can afford. These sessions give you a safe, neutral environment in which you can tackle your issues: the kids, the money, where you are each going to live.

You might start with a session working out a timetable for sharing caring for the children. Or you might launch straight in to disclosing your finances to each other, so that your mediator can write up your Financial Statement; then, when you can see what you’ve got, your mediator will help you make a plan: sell the house, or transfer it to one of you, or keep the house until the children are older and sell it later; set an appropriate level of maintenance … whatever seems best for your particular case, bearing in mind all your circumstances, including the local problems presented by living in an expensive part of the world like Oxford. Focus Mediators are also family lawyers: they know what the solicitors will be looking for and what the court is likely to approve. They can give you helpful legal information to inform your decision-making. You need not feel lost and frightened.

Once you have agreed all the aspects of your settlement (and preferably taken your solicitor’s advice on the proposals), your mediator will record them, and they will be handed to the solicitors who can turn them into a Consent Order, sealed by the Judge. This makes your agreement binding and makes any pension share happen, if you are divorcing. If you are an unmarried couple splitting up then your solicitor can make the agreement binding in another way, so it cannot be re-opened later.

You might have three, four or five joint sessions, depending on how many issues there are to cover and how co-operative you can both be. Focus mediators work fast and effectively: they are dedicated to helping you reach a settlement as quickly and cheaply as possible. Their reputation depends on it!

Focus charges £100 + VAT for each MIAM or £150 + VAT for a joint MIAM, then £125 + VAT per person per hour, with concessionary rates for people on low incomes. The cost per person of a full mediation is usually between £200 each (single session of 1 ½ hours at concessionary rates, no documents) and £1,300 each (4 sessions and two documents on a fully successful mediation at £125 ph). Legal Aid is also available (unlike solicitors, who can no longer offer it).

If you are separating and live in or around Oxford, it would be sensible to come to meet Caroline Friend, Senior Mediator at Focus Mediation. The office is in Summertown at Prama House on South Parade. Caroline can help you quickly and affordably in a matter of weeks, and avoid the horrendous costs and delays involved in court proceedings. Doesn’t that sound like the sane thing to do?