Parenting plans are an important part of a comprehensive settlement agreement. Parents are strongly encouraged to come to a parenting plan agreement that is specific and far-reaching. This is advisable even when parents are amicable, as they may not always see eye-to-eye on every issue.
In order to help you create an effective parenting plan, we’ve composed an outline of the main developmental stages that children experience from birth to the late teenage years. Remember, when creating your parenting plan, its important to prioritize the best interest of the children and not the wishes of the parents.
Infants and Toddlers: Birth to 5 years
The most important factor for young children is consistency. They need regular sleep, eating and play schedules to feel safe. Its important parents create a plan that takes into account a regular routine. At 6 months, babies begin to feel uneasy around strangers and can experience anxiety at pass offs if they’re not bonded with each parent. Young children require frequent interaction with both parents to develop this bond. Parents should be amicable during transfers and support the child’s relationship with the other parent – as young children can sense tension and can become sensitive during exchange times. It may help to provide the child with something familiar such as a toy or blanket, while moving from home to home.
Children: 6 to 12 years
At this time, children are beginning to develop their own schedule preferences. They may want to spend longer periods of time with a certain caregiver and have fewer exchanges. Children will also begin to feel more comfortable with spending time away from their caregivers in preference of spending time with their friends. Parents should allow children to explore their independence.
During these years, children will naturally start to feel disconnected from their caregivers and potentially blame them for the breakup of the family. Its important that during this stage, parents ensure they’re able to spend quality time with their children outside of other obligations. Children should be given a safe platform to express their interest in the parenting plan, but know that their parents are responsible for making the final decision.
Teens: 13 to 18 years
Entering the teenage years is a major transitional period for any child, as they begin to explore more adult behaviours and rely less on their families for nurture and support. As a result, children at this age may resent a strict parenting plan and want more input into the time they spend with each parent. Teens begin to take on more responsibilities including: jobs, school work, socializing and extracurricular activities, as they explore their transition into adulthood. Its important that parents discuss their children’s changing schedules to avoid conflict or negative feelings from one another or the child.
Where to Begin?
Sometimes separated parents are able to reach a parenting plan agreement directly, but often a little assistance is required. A parenting plan can be achieved through mediation, settlement meeting, issuing a parenting plan proposal, negotiation, parenting coordination or collaborative law.
Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.