As you and your ex-spouse develop a parenting plan, your children's needs should be paramount. However, this can be difficult because each child's needs may be different.
Each child's needs can vary based on his or her relationships, personalities, experiences and age. Because the needs for each child are unique, the best parenting plan for your family is probably one that has been personalized to meet those unique needs.
Each developmental stage involves different considerations
Babies and toddlers are dependent on their parents and other caregivers. Typically, they are unable to understand complex situations, like divorce. However, they can feel tension in the home.
Preschoolers may have some ability to understand cause and effect. Their understanding of the world is focused on their own experience, and they may struggle to understand or communicate what they are feeling.
School-age children may experience a fear of abandonment during divorce. Often times, children will struggle with the concept of divorce until they are about 9 years old. Many school-age children mistakenly believe that their parent's divorce is their fault. However, it is also common for school-age children to assign blame to one parent for the divorce.
A good parenting plan should address your child's unique needs
Most children need routine, but for babies and young children, a routine may be especially important. When creating a parenting plan, try to give your children regular and consistent time with each parent. Having a reliable routine will help children of any age feel secure.
Babies and young children often benefit from frequent contact with both parents. However, many children struggle with transitions from one home to the other, so it can be valuable to set up routines for those transitions. For example, the parent who has the children may drive them to the other parent's house. When the children arrive at the house, they may be able to participate in a relaxing activity, such as watching a movie or reading a book.
School-aged children may be able to spend longer stretches of time at each parent's house and may prefer fewer transitions. Also, as older children get more involved with friends and after-school activities, they may want more freedom in their routine. Often, an older child's social routine must be considered when developing a parenting plan.
There are many factors to consider when trying to create a parenting plan. If you have children of various ages, it can be especially challenging to balance their needs. Even if you only have one child, a child's needs can change as he or she develops. It is important to create the most appropriate parenting plan for your children's current needs. You and your ex-spouse may adjust the plan later if your family's situation or your children's needs change.