What did Mother’s Day mean for you? Cause for celebration or a tangled web of sadness, frustration and despair? If you’re anything like Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher it was a time for grandiose gifts – this year he surprised his mum by remodelling her house – but if you are divorced or separated from your partner it can be one of the hardest and most emotionally fraught days of the year.

With one in three Australian marriages ending in divorce, there is a sizeable chunk of mothers across the country for who yesterday was a real struggle. At MELCA, we meet these women every day. We have worked with hundreds of people who are divorcing or separating and heard countless stories of how holidays have become a battlefield – with both parents fighting to gain the upper hand. This is important to note as it’s not just women; we witness the pain and heartache experienced by fathers too.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. As we know, the people who lose out the most in any parental dispute are the children and so here are our five top tips to stop what should be a wonderful day from turning into a war zone in future.

If you and your former partner are co-parenting there is the chance that your child may not be with their mother on Mother’s Day or their father on Father’s Day. If you can, have a discussion in advance about changing the arrangements for these key dates. If this isn’t possible due to distance or prior commitments then try to agree a time for a telephone conversation or a Skype. Recognise that it is important for your child to be able to mark this day.

Help your child to celebrate their parent
This can be a tricky one because the last thing you may feel like doing is picking out or paying for a card or gift for your ex- partner. Divorce and separation can be extremely tough but, for the sake of your child, try and see Mother’s or Father’s Days as a time of truce. Remember that your child will enjoy giving this gift to their parent or making them a card and that by facilitating this you are helping to ensure your child’s wellbeing.

Give and take
Be prepared to be flexible and to lead by example when necessary. If you, as a mother, realise that your child will be in your care on Father’s Day, or vice versa, then why not offer to switch? Negotiating with a former partner is not always easy but the most painless way to get through days like this is by working together. The same is true of the divorce or separation process as a whole. At MELCA we work hard to keep everyone who comes to us out of court while at the same time ensuring that they are provided with the legal, financial and psychological support they need to work through a split in a way that benefits both parties – and most of all, their children.

New partners
If your former spouse has a new partner then, depending on how close your child is to them, they may want to include them in Mother’s or Father’s Day celebrations too. Take the lead from your child on this one and do not try to encourage or dissuade them, your child should be able to do whatever makes them feel most comfortable without fear of their actions upsetting anyone else.

Celebrate on a different day
If there is no room for manoeuvre and you are unable to see your child on Mother’s Day then accept the difficulty of this time of year, remember that the day will pass and, most importantly, be kind to yourself. Visit friends, take a walk somewhere beautiful, curl up with a good book or if you can, pay a visit to your parents. If you have contact with your child, then why not decide to hold your own Mother’s Day on a different day, one when you will have your child with you, so that both you and your child don’t miss out on the chance to celebrate? If you don’t have contact with your child, then consider getting in touch with a collaborative practitioner or child psychologist to try and reconnect.

Separation or divorce isn’t easy but, here at MELCA, we can provide the support you and your family need.