Tag Archives: shared family plan

Shared Family Parenting: Holidays

           Holiday schedules generally take precedence over regularly scheduled parenting time.

             The major holidays should be defined by both parents and alternated or shared with consideration to prior family traditions and religious beliefs, especially in the first year of separation. Whenever possible, children should continue celebrating particular holidays with extended family where this has been the prior custom. The location of both parents and their respective families should be considered in determining how holidays should be shared.

                       Many parents provide for the civil holidays that are celebrated on Mondays by having the child remain with whichever parent has the child for that weekend. This generally works out equitably except in cases where the child is scheduled to be with the same parent every Monday.


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Shared Family Plan: Thirteen to Fifteen Years, Part II

Parents of these early adolescents should consider the child’s schedule and commitments, distance between the parents’ homes, each parent’s work schedule or other obligations, the child’s temperament and wishes, and recognition of a teen’s need for unstructured time.

             Although many different plans may work for children of this age, some options include:

  • Alternating seven-day periods with or without mid-week time.
  • Alternating long weekends with or without mid-week time.
  • Providing a home base for the child with some time with the non-residential parent during the week and on weekends.

             This is a time when children may articulate a desire for a home base because of the growing importance of their own network and outside activities. Both parents can increase contact through regular attendance at the child’s athletic, performance, academic or other activities. This allows for maximum parental involvement in activities important in the child’s life.


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Shared Family Plan: Thirteen to Fifteen Years, Part I

            Children between thirteen and fifteen continue to use the family as a base of support and guidance. Decision-making abilities vary widely among adolescents as well as from one situation to another.

             Though they may not show it, young adolescents continue to need the nurturing and oversight of their parents. The primary developmental task for children this age is one of increasing independence from the family and the emergence of an identity of a separate self. Girls usually mature earlier than boys.

             Children of this age should be encouraged to explore activities and develop social relationships outside the family. These outside interests often compete with the scheduled parenting plan. Teens will often prefer to spend time with peers over parents and can become resentful and angry if their wishes are not respected. The challenge for parents of these early adolescents is to support their growing independence while maintaining some basic structure and close contact with both parents.

             It is appropriate for children of this age to begin to negotiate their time directly with each parent. It is of paramount importance for parents to talk directly with each other to be certain that the child is safe and accountable. Parents should support the  relationship of the child with the other parent.


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Shared Family Plan: Ten to Twelve Years, Part II

  • School-age children can do well with many different parenting plans as long as they provide for frequent contact with both parents.
  •  Where possible, plans should include overnights during the week and on weekends.
  •  Some options include alternating weekends with three or four overnights, split weeks or alternating weeks.
  •  Children should be given the opportunity and privacy to call the other parent.
  •  Children’s preferences should be considered and respected. Remember that parents should still make the final decision.
  •  It is important to accommodate the child’s social activities and commitments.

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Shared Family Plan: Ten to Twelve Years, Part I

This period is also known as the “pre-teen years,” as these children are preparing to make the leap into puberty and adolescence. They have a greater capacity to understand time, to appreciate future plans and schedules, and to balance different values and parental practices that might exist in their two residences. Children this age tend to be rule bound and may align themselves with one parent. If your child refuses to see the other parent, you should seek assistance from a professional family counselor.

 Ten to twelve year olds should be encouraged to engage in a variety of activities outside the home. Such participation helps children develop social and intellectual skills in preparation for the greater independence and demands of adolescence. Parents should allow their children to express feelings about the need for greater control over their own time while making it clear that parents make the final decisions. Balancing time with parents, friends and activities requires flexibility and commitment to maintaining a strong relationship with both parents. Parental support of increased independence will contribute to the child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.


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Shared Family Plan: Six to Nine Years, Part II

At this age, it is important to maximize frequent contact with both parents. Depending upon each family’s circumstances – for example, parenting responsibilities assumed by each parent prior to separation, geographical distance, parents’ work commitments, child’s activities, child’s temperament and adjustment, and level of conflict between parents – the plan might include:

  •  One to three or sometimes four overnights a week with the non-residential parent with the understanding that some children still require a home base while others do well alternating or splitting weeks.
  • Alternate weekends with an evening during the week. The weekend could include one, two or three overnights depending upon the level of involvement with pre-separation parenting.
  • Weekday overnights so that the non-residential parent can fully participate in the child’s schooling. Research shows that children with fathers involved in their schooling perform better in school.

 The child’s social activities and commitments should be given priority whenever possible.

 Parents need to support the child’s participation in activities and the development of relationships outside the family. Children at the older end of this group may want to have input into the parenting plan. Although their views should be considered, parents still make the decisions. Children should be given the opportunity and privacy to call the other parent.

 Parents should try to limit the number of transitions between households. It is important to maintain consistency so children can reasonably rely on being with each parent on the same day of the week. For example, children may be with one parent on Monday and Tuesday night and the other parent on Wednesday and Thursday night with weekends alternating. This will allow children to feel secure in making plans with their peers and parents to be consistent in their responsibilities for participation in their children’s activities.


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Shared Family Plan: Six to Nine Years, Part I

            This period begins the long, usually more settled, middle years of childhood. Children have greater experience with multiple separations from parents (e.g. school, relatives, friends, sports). During this stage, children begin to:

  •  Develop peer and community relationships.
  • Attain self-esteem as they develop personal and social skills.
  • Develop empathy and a sense of right and wrong.

             Early school-age children understand the concepts of time and routine. They can be more independent than their younger peers and more secure with the idea of two residences.

             They usually can adjust to different parenting styles. This and the next age period are typically the most flexible years of development, which permits parents to be more creative in preparing parenting plans. Using a calendar to inform and remind children of the schedules outlined in the parenting plan, along with their other activities, is very helpful, as changes can be anticipated and talked about ahead of time, easing some of the stress of transitions.


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Shared Family Plan: Three to Five Years, Part II

When planning the amount of time and the number of consecutive overnights the child will spend with each parent, parents should consider:

  •  The amount of childcare each of the parents provided prior to separation.
  • The child’s temperament.
  • The level of conflict between parents.
  • Familiarity with the other parent’s home.

             If one parent was minimally involved in the child’s daily routine, a few days each week including a full weekend day will allow the relationship and caregiving skills to develop. As the child becomes more comfortable moving between two homes, additional time and one or two overnights may be added.

             If both parents are working outside the home at the time of separation and the child is in day care, parents might consider splitting each weekend so the child has one full stay-at-home day and overnight with each parent every week, as well as some weekday contact. While this may not be the best solution for the parents, it is helpful to many young children in the early stages of separation.

             If one parent is primarily at home with the child, the parenting plan may offer the other parent more weekend time, in addition to some weekday contact.

             Some parents find that an every-other-weekend schedule with midweek contact works well. As the child moves through this developmental stage, weekends may be extended to include either Friday or Sunday night or both.

             When both parents have been actively involved in the child’s daily routine, depending on the child’s temperament and adjustment, ease of transitions and the effectiveness of parental communication, reasonably equal time may be considered.


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Shared Family Plan: Eighteen to Thirty-Six Months (Toddler), Part I

The period from eighteen months to three years is one of rapid physical, emotional and social change. Toddlers are becoming more aware of the world around them. They may have formed attachments to many caregivers (i.e. parents, grandparents, daycare  providers, close family friends). They are beginning to trust that their caregivers will meet their physical and emotional needs. Toddlers can respond to different parenting styles.

 They are becoming more independent and are developing the ability to comfort  themselves (i.e. favorite blanket or toy or thumbsucking).

 Healthy children of this age are “full of themselves” and may express their independence by saying “No” to requests and demands. Some children at this age may become fearful of separations, so that transitions between homes may be difficult. Some children may cling to a parent or cry at the separation from one or both parents. Resistance to exchanges is normal for many children. This behavior does not necessarily mean that the other parent is not a good parent or that the child does not want to be with one parent or the other.

 If parents share driving, it is sometimes easier for children if the parent they are with drops them off to the other parent. This avoids interrupting ongoing activities that sometimes occur when a parent comes to pick up the child, and it signals parental support for the transition. Predictable schedules and supporting the relationship with the other parent can make exchanges easier. Toddlers are particularly sensitive to tension, anger and violence in the parental relationship.


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Shared Family Plan: Designing a Plan, Nine to Eighteen Months


 Between the ages of nine and eighteen months, the transition from infant to toddler gradually takes place. There is great and rapid skill development, including motor  accomplishments (crawling, standing and walking), communication from sounds and smiles to simple words, and beginning expressions of simple emotions (hugs, kisses, anger, fear and anxiety).


Predictability and consistency remain important. Babies can respond to multiple nurturing caregivers if there is sensitivity to their cues and needs, and regularity in their waking, eating, and sleeping schedules. Babies may continue to express fear and anxiety if a familiar caregiver is not there to comfort them.

Designing the Plan

It is important for each parent to have the opportunity to:

  • Participate in daily routines such as feeding, bathing, napping, playing.
  • Have frequent contact with the child. Separations of more than three or four days from either parent will interfere with a healthy attachment to that parent.
  • Establish similar routines in each home by creating a communication log to be shared between the parents that describes the child’s daily experience.
  • If a parent has not been involved in caregiving previously, frequent short visits several times weekly will help to develop a mutually secure relationship and allow the parent to master the tasks required in caring for a baby. Daytime visits may be lengthened gradually, and overnights added as the parent and child develop a stronger bond and the parent is comfortably able to attend to feeding, bathing, diapering, soothing and bedtime needs.
  • When both parents are working outside the home and a child is with a third-party caregiver during the workday, many parents split the weekend and consider an additional one      or two overnights with the non-residential parent during the week as well as other mid-week contact. Although this is quite workable if the non-residential parent was “hands on” with childcare when they lived together, parents should remain sensitive to the child’s response to several caregivers and multiple transitions.
  • If both parents participated in all aspects of childcare on a reasonably consistent basis before the separation, the plan should allow for shared parenting to continue.

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