Every family is different. If you’ve separated from your partner, your plans for parenting time will depend on several factors:
- The ages of the children - 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 ten minutes apart will have more opportunities for frequent visits than parents who live two hours apart.
- The children's wishes and any specific needs they have.
- The type of co-parenting relationship you have - this includes factors like how well you communicate and co-operate.
In the early days, many families start without much of a plan. Visits are arranged at short notice, and activities are open and flexible. This can work well if the children are getting to see both parents regularly and there is a strong co-parenting relationship. A flexible arrangement requires good communication, and give and take on all sides.
If children don't know when they're next seeing their mum or dad, they may worry, especially if there are sometimes long gaps between visits. Co-parenting requires frequent communication and co-operation, so it’s important to establish the parameters and remain consistent.
Work out a plan together. Consider the practicalities and your own expectations but, most importantly, ask the children how they feel about it all.
Things to bear in mind
- Children cope best with predictable and regular routines.
- If the children are of school age, it can be helpful to separate routines for term time and holiday time.
- You'll probably want to have special arrangements for days like birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
- If you want to take the children away on holiday, you will need extra planning time. Be prepared to consult each other well in advance before you make any commitments.
- Have some flexibility to make changes now and again, but don't make changes without consulting your child’s other parent. Try to be considerate and accommodating when discussing changes.
- When it comes to parenting time, quality is more important than quantity. If you’ve only got limited time with your children, make it count – they will remember the good times.
- Children like doing ordinary, everyday things as well as having treats.
- Be prepared to review the arrangements.
Don't worry about making your parenting plan perfect on the first attempt. Try it, review it, and then make adjustments as needed. If you want a template to get things started, you can use our free parenting plan.