Co-parenting can be a challenging journey for separated or divorced parents. For this reason, establishing a well-thought-out co-parenting plan is crucial for the well-being and stability of the children involved.
Even if you have an amicable relationship with your ex-partner and don’t feel a parenting plan is necessary, it can be a godsend further down the line. The best time to create a co-parenting plan is while you are amicable. You never know what the future holds and when conflict may arise. Having a plan to stick to which alleviates the need for stressful communication will maintain a level of harmony throughout your co-parenting years.
In this article, we will explore the key steps to creating a co-parenting plan that works for your family, promoting effective communication, cooperation, and the best interests of your children.
Kids first every time
Having a child-centered approach is critical to creating the best possible parenting plan.
Whatever else you disagree on, you will have one thing in common. That is the welfare of your children.
Committing to making decisions that promote your children’s emotional, physical, and psychological well-being will keep you on the same track. It will also ensure that your children’s needs are put before your own throughout the planning process.
When it comes to making co-parenting work, you must be able to communicate with your ex-partner.
This doesn’t mean talking on the phone daily. It means establishing clear communication lines in a form that works best for you as a co-parenting couple. We recommend less-emotive types of communication that also provide a record of conversations and agreements. Text, email and co-parenting apps are all good.
Be sure to discuss important matters promptly and inform each other about the children’s well-being, school events, medical appointments, and additional relevant information.
Work with a calendar
No co-parenting app worth its salt comes without a calendar! This is because planning ahead is essential when devising your co-parenting plan.
Ok, so it’s only February, but you need to start planning and recording what will happy next Christmas. And don’t forget other special days like birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or any religious days marked by your family.
Then there is the more mundane day-to-day care of your children. Consider the children’s ages, school routines, extracurricular activities, and individual needs when determining what a typical week will look like.
Be flexible and accommodating to changes, ensuring both parents have quality time with the children. The more details you can provide for arrangements now and into the future, the more chance you have of avoiding conflict.
Establish consistent care
If you can, take your parenting plan a step further than the logistics of co-parenting and include some rules for consistent care of your child between homes.
This might mean similar routines and rules, such as bedtime and table manners (age-dependent). Try to agree on core values, behavioural expectations, and consequences for misbehaviour.
Not only will this create clarity and stability for the children whichever parent they are living with, it will also establish a sense of structure and security.
Don’t forget the financials
A co-parenting plan is an excellent opportunity to decide on and record your decisions around the financial side of co-parenting. Since money is one of the most common reasons for conflict between co-parents, wouldn’t it be great to get this cleared up at the beginning?
Decide how expenses related to the children will be divided, such as school fees, healthcare costs, extracurricular activities, and clothing. Consider setting up a joint bank account or using the child support payment system to ensure transparency and accountability.
Not all expenses can be planned; some are unexpected, such as a new activity your child suddenly takes an interest in, unforeseen medical expenses, or school trips. Put how you will work through the payment decisions in your parenting plan, even if you can’t firm it all up now.
Include a conflict resolution process
No co-parenting arrangement is free from disagreements or conflicts.
For this reason, include the process for conflict resolution within your co-parenting plan. This might mean each party providing their thoughts and the other acknowledging them, allowing room for middle ground. More often, when an agreement seems unreachable, you could seek the assistance of a mediator or therapist to help navigate difficult discussions or disagreements.
Remember: Always bring it back to the kids. If you both genuinely want the best for them, you might end up in the same place and, bingo, find you have an agreement.
Accept that a co-parenting plan is ever-changing
There is no way a co-parenting plan can be set in stone because their needs will change as your children grow. As will the needs and requirements of yourself and your ex-partner.
Know that your carefully-laid plans will only last for so long and be ready and open for change as needed. This might be changes in schools, school activities, work schedules, or a parent moving away or taking on a new job. These events are a normal and expected transient part of life that will occur and need to be accounted for in your co-parenting plan.
Being flexible, adaptable and having open communication will ensure you are best placed to cope with the changes that life throws at you.
Conclusion: How to create a co-parenting plan that works for your family
Never underestimate the effect of a good co-parenting plan on the quality of life for your children and the whole family. A guide to follow that limits the need for decision-making that might cause conflict is invaluable.
Creating a co-parenting plan that works for your family requires commitment, cooperation, and the willingness to prioritise the children’s best interests. However, it is absolutely worth it for everyone involved.