Planning Parenting Time
Every family is different and what the parenting time plan looks like will depend on:
- The ages of the children (e.g. young children suit a little but often routine whereas older children can deal with longer blocks of time).
- Parents' work and other commitments (shift workers may have more restrictions than parents who work from home)
- The accommodation of the parent who doesn't live with the children.
- How far apart the two homes are (Parents who live 10 minutes apart have more opportunities for frequent visits than parents who live 2 hours apart)
- The children's wishes and any specific needs they have.
- The type of co - parenting relationship you have (whether you communicate and co-operate well.)
Some families, especially in the early days, actually don't have much of a plan. Visits are arranged at short notice; things are open and flexible. This can work well if the children are getting to see their other parent regularly and the parents' relationship is good as it requires a lot of communication and give and take on all sides.
The drawbacks are that the children may worry if they don't know when they're next seeing mum or dad, especially if there are sometimes long gaps between visits. If co-parenting isn't established or not great, the need for frequent communication and cooperation can also increase tensions. In fact, disagreements about parenting time are one of the most common difficulties that parents have to deal with.
The solution is to work out a plan together that takes into account the children's feelings (you'll have to ask them!) your own expectations and the practicalities. Things to bear in mind:
- Children like predictable and regular routines.
- If the children are school age, it can be helpful to think about the term time routine and the holiday time routine separately.
- You'll probably want to treat special days like birthdays, mothers' and fathers' days differently.
- Taking the children away on holiday will need extra planning so be prepared to consult each other well in advance before you make firm commitments.
- Decide how you will share the travelling.
- Having some flexibility to make changes now and again is sensible. But don't assume you can make changes without the agreement of the other parent. Be polite when you request a change and try to be accommodating when you are responding.
- Remember that although you need to take your children's wishes and feelings into account, parents are the final decision makers.
- The quality of parenting time is more important than the quantity. Children will remember the good times not necessarily the number of hours or days.
- Children like doing ordinary everyday things as well as having treats.
- Be prepared to review the arrangements regularly.
If you are making a parenting time plan for the first time, don't worry about getting it absolutely right. You might want to try things out, review how they go and then make any adjustments needed.
It's not unusual for parents to have differences of opinion about some of the details in the parenting plan. Be guided by what you think the children would prefer. If you still disagree see if you can work out a compromise or trade off. If you're still stuck consider using mediation.
Follow this link for further information on tips and advice for after separation