Creating the right parenting plan is essential for your success as a blended family, here are my tips and a template for you to use.
To get yourself off to the best start with your ex, you need to get a parenting plan in place straight away. Getting this right is paramount to your children’s adjustment and acceptance of their new circumstances. All children regardless of age (including teens) need stability and consistency. Having a plan will enable you to answer their questions and provide reassurances. However, this must be done together to show your children that you are still a family and they can rely on both of you.
A parenting plan is an agreement between two or more separated parents or legal guardians on the arrangement of the children.
It is helpful to start with some principles about how you want to raise your children whilst living separately, how you see your role as a parent, the children's strengths and your hopes for the future. It is an opportunity to get on the same page and focus on a positive future for you all.
You may also want to agree on a joined up method of disciplining your children. At the end of the day you can not control how the other person parents, and you may not always agree with one another, but if you can set out some principles you do both agree on that will help your child in the long run i.e. screen time, bed time, rewards.
This is literally where and when your children will be. It can be a weekly, fortnightly or monthly schedule of who is picking up and being dropped off, where they are sleeping etc. It is a schedule that allows the whole family to know what is happening, establishes a routine and should be adhered to, It becomes the foundation for trust for all concerned.
Please note, schedules can change in school holidays etc. Many parents agree to a different schedule for this period. This is to allow one parent to make up for time during the school term, when it may be harder to schedule in time with the children or to help with child care. Similarly, It is helpful to agree in the plan what arrangements you are going to put in place if you wish to take the children abroad and agree to share details of flights, hotels where you are staying etc.
You should also agree how passports will be handed across, who will usually hold them and who will cover the cost of maintaining them. You may also wish to discuss if there is to be any contact between the children and the other parent whilst they are away.
Having decided your schedule, you will also need to consider if there are any changes for special days in the year such as birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc. Many parents schedule Mothers and Father’s Day for the relevant parent, but you may also wish to accommodate your own birthdays, or birthdays of step-siblings.
Christmas and New Year can often be a time of contention so agreeing this upfront is helpful for everyone to know where they stand. Try to focus on what the children would like.
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