Parenting through separation can be tough. That is why it is important to create a combined parenting schedule that suits your family and proves to your child that even though you are separated, both parents can still work together for their good. When you are working out your schedule, consider these dos and don’ts.
Put Yourself In Your Kid’s Shoes
This is going to be a huge change for them as they have only known a household where both parents live together. Consider how traveling back and forth between two homes is going to affect them in their day to day life. What can they gain, and what might they miss out on?
If you and your ex-partner are going to share custody, then you need to live close together so that travel time is not a factor. Think about how your child will get to school, kindergarten, or daycare from both homes, and if childcare will need to be a factor. Will you still be able to continue the relationship with existing babysitters, after school activities and friends.
Consider Existing Schedules
If you already have a schedule of activities that your kids participate in, then consider these when planning your combined schedule. Remember that some of these activities might be seasonal and don’t take place all year round.
Consider Involving The Kids
Whether or not this option is a consideration will depend on the age of your children. Older children will appreciate being heard and being able to give their opinion. Even if you need to overrule them in some places, it is important to maintain communication within the family unit.
Consider Special Needs
You know your kids better than anyone else, so consider their needs when making an arrangement. Keep in mind the things that help them thrive and the things that might hold them back. Be sensitive to these things when you are deciding on a schedule.
The purpose of an agreement is to support the adjustment of a new way of life for your kids and for them to maintain an ongoing relationship with both parents. While it is tempting to make things convenient, that will not achieve your overall goal. Noting that there might be sacrifices for both sides will help make the process run smoother.
Focus On Winners and Losers
Everyone will end up losing if you turn this process into a competition. Instead, try and keep emotion out of it and make the decisions based on how things will affect the kids first. There is no point in keeping score on who is sacrificing more.
Use This As An Opportunity To Get Back At Your Ex
Focus on what your kids need, not on how you can sabotage your ex’s life. This not the time to make your ex pay, or to cause them pain because they have caused you pain.
Assume You Are The Only Parent
Just because you have always done the bedtime routine, or taken them to swimming lessons does not mean that you are the only one capable of doing so. Your ex will be just as capable of stepping up to the plate when they need to. Adapting to two different parenting styles can actually be healthy for your kids.
Plan For Things To Happen Down The Track
Don’t assume that conditions can be met at a later date. For example, that your ex will move into your kid’s school zone by the time they reach high school. That might be out of their control if there is no affordable housing options available at the time. Plan for the here and now, then assess changes if they happen.
It might look great on paper, but in practice your carefully constructed schedule might not work. Test drive it for a few weeks before completely committing to it. You will only know if it works if both parties make a true effort to stick to it.
If you find that you really can’t agree, or things are turning to an argument every time you try and discuss it, then you may want to seek independent help. They can mediate the situation and ensure that your kids needs are at the centre of the discussion. Try and work it out between yourselves before involving an outside party though as you know your family best.