You might wonder what a parenting plan is and why you would need it, but it is remarkably useful for spouses that have chosen to co-parent. A parenting plan is essentially a document that two co-parents who do not live together use to help them work together to raise their child. Your relationship might have ended but your duties towards your family and your children still live on. Keeping that in mind, most divorced or separated couples think it best to set up a plan in which everything concerning parenting is outlined in order to give both parties some clarity on the values and expectations they have of each other as parents and the beliefs they will impart on their child. This parenting plan may be mandated by court or it may be a more informal document. However, keep in mind that this document may have to be amended as your child grows and their needs change.
1. Decide On A Normal Schedule And Coordinate
The first order of business is to decide who the child lives with and how often the other parent gets to visit your child. You can discuss visitation rights in court or in private but you must do this as soon as possible in order to bring back some stability into your child’s life. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may decide on joint custody, or you may decide that it is best for the child to live primarily with one parent. Then start figuring out the logistics together.
If you have a baby or a toddler try to arrange a schedule in a way that allows both parents to have some opportunity to participate in the day to day care of the baby as this is essential for bonding. If your child is a little older and in school, the school schedule may have some influence on your schedule. Decide on what days each parent gets to pick the child up from school based on availability and set it in routine. Make sure you inform your partner of any major changes like if you are moving or shifting the schedule due to work commitments. Remember, you may not be together but communication is still key.
2. Create A Plan For Holidays And Vacations
If you want to take the kids to Disney Land during their summer break but your partner decides to take them on a camping trip instead, that is going to be a major bummer. Mostly for your kids who are now busy finding twigs instead of overdosing on sugary treats. To avoid this fate and clashing of interests it is best to make some special adjustments in order to accommodate special holidays and vacations. For example, if mother’s day fell on a day where the child is usually with the father, it would make sense to make an exception for that day so that your child could celebrate mother’s day like their peers. Most parents find a way to amicably do family vacations so that they both get to spend sufficient time with their kids during the holidays and make special memories with them. If this seems out of reach for you, you can always split the time equally between yourselves or come up with another alternative.
3. Think About Special Circumstances
No parent wants to think about their child falling ill and getting into accidents but these things happen. And it is better to be prepared for it than to wonder what the protocol for alerting both parents might be if a time of emergency arises. While it’s impossible to plan for everything, having a basic idea of how you will handle special circumstances will help you avoid conflicts with your co-parent when they do come up. So, here’s what you can do. Think about how both parents will adjust their schedules if the child is sick during visitation time. If your child prefers a specific parent to a doctor’s appointment you will have to decide if you switch days in order to accommodate their wishes.
You must also have a back up plan in case of special circumstances like funerals, a last minute business trip or other family emergencies that you cannot predict. Will your child stay with the other parent or a babysitter? Who are they allowed to stay with overnight? Make a list of candidates that you are both comfortable with in order to avoid any confusion in the future.
Trying to co-parent while navigating a divorce or separation can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. As long as you sit down and come up with a parenting plan together, you will avoid a lot of conflicts and hiccups concerning your child in the future. Remember that you are still a family and try to be as amiable as possible. Discuss parenting keeping the needs of your child in mind and you will come up with a plan that works for everyone. Happy parenting!