Incidental Parenting

It’s only natural to want to fight for your kids but is it the best way to keep your relationship with them?

The thing that has always struck me about my children is what they remember. It’s never the big things and it’s never the things I think they will remember. It is almost always the little personal interactions – the time we had coffee and cake and joked around or the time we walked the dog and they tried to steal the ball or the time they made me listen to their Spotify playlist, in the car, loudly.

Kids usually appreciate and remember the little things that come from incidental parenting

Kids usually appreciate and remember the little things.

Incidental Parenting

When you are going through a separation and trying to negotiate with your ex about when and for how long, this is what you need to remember. It is perfectly normal to get focused on days and on nights and on getting a fair share, but where your kid sleeps is not the thing your kid will remember, not the memory they will treasure, and let’s face it probably not the thing you will remember.

They will remember the time you called them and played robloxs in team mode or the time you sent them a really silly gif or the time you turned up at their footy game in team colours and cheered loudly or even the time you just checked in with them to see how their big school project went.

This is what’s known as incidental parenting.

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Incidental Parenting

Incidental parenting is something you have actually been doing with your kids their whole life. It is the parenting that happens almost by accident. As a separated parent however those interactions can become more difficult and less spontaneous so it becomes about hanging out and having fun any way you can, Facetime, Zoom, on the phone, DM’s, Snapchat, SMS or in person. Because it is those little interactions that often mean the most to them. As any parent knows no kid is going to fondly remember a go to bed fight, a do your homework fight or a brush your teeth fight. What they will remember is you teasing them about their first crush.

Incidental parenting is all about the little everyday things.

Incidental parenting is all about the little everyday things.


And this is exactly why we do mediations to sort out parenting, because mediation takes all of this in to account and it makes space for incidental parenting, fosters it, prioritises it and nurtures your relationships so they will always be there no matter what.

The best way to be a part of your kids life is to be a part of the things that make up their life. Those little everyday things are the things that count, they are the things you build a relationship on. And by choosing mediation over a two or three year knock down drag out court fight you are focusing on your relationship and those incidental interactions can be protected, nurtured and enshrined in your parenting plan.

Incidental parenting is all about hanging out and having fun.

It’s making sure you are a part of your kids life by being a part of the things that matter to them.


When I think of incidental parenting I always think of a guy I used to work with and how things really worked out for him because he worked at his relationship with his daughter despite difficult circumstances.

“Scott” (not his real name) went through a pretty ugly divorce and a pretty ugly custody battle. His wife ran off with a close friend of his, made out it was all his fault, and basically refused to let him have much to do with his 12yo daughter – we’ll call her Ashley. Along with “Scott” not seeing “Ashley” very much his ex started telling “Ashley” a whole lot of made up stories. Stories in which “Scott” didn’t come off very well. “Scott” wasn’t left with many options so he stepped back. But he kept in touch with “Ashley”, kept up the incidental parenting and was still a part of her life. It took a couple of years, but as “Ashley” got a little older, a little wiser, and a little more mature she started to see through mums stories and because “Scott” had kept up the relationship “Ashley” forced the issue and asked to start staying at “Scott’s” house.

Don’t get me wrong it was hard for “Scott” to step back. He had to trust his daughter and trust that she would see through it all, but he kept up with the incidental parenting, maintained the relationship they already had and even built a new relationship.

And having done many many parenting mediations I can assure you this is not unusual, it is how most of these things turn out.

It’s really hard to step back and it’s really hard to step away from the fight. It is probably the most adulting you will ever have to do. It feels like you are losing, or at least giving up, but that isn’t the case at all. What you are really doing is making sure you are a part of your kids life by being a part of the things that matter to them, and they will love you even more for it.

To book a free no obligation 15 minute What’s Next chat click this link

Incidental Parenting


For help with your separation or parenting issues call BrightSide on (08) 6382 0123 or click any of the book now buttons for a free 15 minute What’s Next chat.





Susan Hewitt Collaborative lawyer and mediatorSusan Hewitt is the Principal at Bright Side Family Law, a non-litigious family law and mediation practice. Susan has worked as a lawyer and journalist for almost 30 years. She is an accredited collaborative lawyer, a family-law mediator and a qualified FDRP who is committed to helping families through their relationship breakdown in an honest, cooperative and respectful manner.

If you are facing a family law matter and need some advice call or email us at BrightSide https://brightsidefamilylaw.com.au/contact-us/ or click the BOOK NOW button to book a free no obligation 15 minute What’s Next chat.