By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Parenting plans are becoming more and more recognized as the way for both parents to coordinate their parenting, their lives and their relationship with their children after divorce.
In its simplest form a parenting plan puts in writing the agreed upon schedule both parents have created regarding most all parenting arrangements. It outlines the days, times and other details of when, where and how each parent will be with the children along with other agreements both parents will follow in the months and years to come.
The purpose of the plans is to determine strategies that are in the children’s best interest to create smooth, easy and positive transitions. These plans encourage cooperative co-parenting so that the children feel secure, loved, wanted and nurtured by both of their parents.
Plans can vary in depth and scope. Often they include guidelines for routine residential arrangements as well as special occasions, including holidays, birthday and vacation time. Emergency information, decision-making guidelines, processes for sharing information, relocation procedures and means for resolving disputes can also be spelled out to minimize future conflict and provide consistency for the children.
While parenting plans make excellent tools for the family, keep them flexible so that their purpose doesn’t get lost in a maze of too rigid rules. Allow for some fluctuation and reassessments as the family ages and also experiences the day-to-day realities of their living arrangements.
No plan can compensate for irresponsible or negligent parenting. Make sure the time you spend with your children is rewarding for them and reinforces the caring, supportive messages you want your children to remember. Don’t try to substitute gifts or excursions for the quality parenting time they value and crave.
Parenting after divorce is all about reassurance, safety and security. Allow your children an adjustment period at the beginning and end of visits as they transition from one home to the other. This is not easy to do for adults. Think of what it must be like for children – regardless of their age.
Be sensitive about how and when to introduce your children to your new adult friends, especially dating partners. Children are very possessive of both parents. They need to feel very secure in your love for them before they can accept another parent figure in their lives. Take your time in this regard. Think before you take steps you will regret.
Whenever possible create a sense of consistency between both homes. Children fare best when Mom and Dad agree on basic parenting issues and don’t contradict one another from home to home. If you do have differing rules, talk to your children about the differences, explain your own parenting style, and don’t put down their other parent – even if you don’t agree with their values. Your children will learn to adapt to differences in their parents if you don’t make a big deal about those issues.
Never forget that you will be a parent to your children for the rest of your life – and so will their other parent. Keep that perspective and focus on ways to collaborate and join forces whenever possible. Your children will be the winners in the long term.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, relationship seminar facilitator and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For free articles, an ezine and other valuable resources about Child-Centered Divorce visit //www.childcentereddivorce.com. To order her acclaimed ebook, visit //www.howdoitellthekids.com.