What is all this talk about Parenting Plans?
Joe recently came to see me to discuss issues related to his separation. When I asked about the children, he proudly responded that he and his wife had already decided that the kids would live with him 50% of the time and with their mother 50% of the time. I then asked if they had given any thought to the creation of a parenting plan. He felt that since he and his former spouse were amicable and had decided that the children would spend their time equally between parents, there was no need for a parenting plan.
You may feel the same way. Well…. You may be right, but years of experience tells me, that without a parenting plan, you may be setting yourself up for failure or, at the very least for unforeseen conflict.
A parenting plan is an agreement that outlines how you and the other parent will care for and parent your children, following separation. There is so much that goes into a workable parenting plan. I encourage parents to work with a skilled professional in the creation of such a plan, as this person will be able to help you consider a multitude of variables. For example:
Where will we each live? What is the amount of distance between our two homes that we think will work for our parenting arrangement?
How will we ensure that the children spend quality time with aunts and uncles and grandparents?
Where will the children be for Christmas, for their birthdays, for our birthdays?
What plans should we make for childcare during the summer months or when the children are ill, and the list goes on and on.
I consider a Parenting Plan to be a labour of love. It is crafted by you with input from both parents and dedicated to making sure that your children’s best interests are uppermost in your minds. How can you lose?
Putting together a well thought-out parenting plan reduces stress by making the transition to life, post-separation easier on the children and parents. This is because a parenting plan:
Is created with the best interests of your children, in mind,
Is your document. You create it and customize it to suit your family’s particular needs,
Helps to minimize conflict between parents, as:
Guidelines and expectations are clearly articulated,
The focus is on the kids, and
You have given some thought, in advance, to areas where there might be difficulty. This permits you to create a ‘plan within the plan’ for how to deal with difficulties and disagreements when they occur. And, count on it. They will occur.