Agreeing on a parenting plan can be tricky. Not only does it involve and affect several people but you and your ex-partner are expected to reach an amicable agreement at a time when emotions are running high and conflict is constantly present.
It's not always easy but it can be done. A successful parenting plan requires your child to be the primary focus of it all, not the only one but the main one. If not then his or her discontentment, unhappiness and fretfulness will be a heavy cloak over your next many parenting years.
So when coming up with a co-parenting plan consider this.
- Your child's world is changing as they know it and it is out of their control. If their life outside the home can remain the same, i.e. school, friends and extra-curricular activities, that would be of great benefit to them and eventually to you, as they will continue to have some stability and familiarity which can in turn nurture security.
- Consider how much time your child will be spending with the non-resident parent as well as extended family including grandparents? Parent alienation is unfortunately so very common and no one hurts more than the children. Just take a moment and watch Mum and Dad Are Splitting Up and see how this can affect a child for a long time coming.
- Your child's age. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind if you want a plan that really suits and fits the children. What a two-year-old needs physically, emotionally and socially is quite different from what a nine or 15-year-old needs. Older children for instance might want to have a say as to how they would want the plan to work. Hear them out. They might come up with alternatives that you both might have overlooked.
- Closely tied to the previous point is the distance between the two households. If parents can continue to live as close to each other as possible that would be great but distance is one of the factors that will truly determine the frequency at which the child gets to see and spend time with the non-resident parent - 40 minutes drive might as well be three hours for a toddler but is easily managed by a nine-year-old.
- Your ability to communicate without conflict is crucial. If your situation is a high conflict one then you may want to meet somewhere else other than in each other's homes. Or have someone else that your child knows and trust do the transition for you. Why not? Then everyone is happy especially your little ones.
- What about birthdays? Some families where there is conflict work this out in two ways - each parent holds a party or some sort of celebration for the child or they alternate from one year to the next. Nothing stops you from celebrating it with your child when you're with him/her. Nothing at all.
Family mediation is a wonderful and cost effective way of creating a co-parenting plan. If you haven't tried it then give it a go.