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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: Three to Five Years, Part I

Children in the pre-school years experience a tremendous number of developmental  changes. It is important that parents of pre-schoolers adjust parenting styles to accommodate their children’s new development, while keeping in mind that preschoolers continue to require guidance and support.

 Three to five year olds think they are the center of the universe and therefore often feel they are responsible for the divorce. They may say what they believe the parent wants to hear. It is important to remember that this does not necessarily reflect the child’s real experience. If the child reports parental behavior that causes concern, discuss the matter with the other parent. In many instances, the child may have misunderstood what happened and talking to the other parent may resolve the issue.

 Pre-schoolers tend to be impulsive and very concrete in their thinking. Nightmares are normal at this age as children become able to imagine frightening things, but have difficulty coping with their fears.

 Three to five year olds are attached to their regular caregivers, and separation from them may cause them to be fearful, uncomfortable or anxious. They may have troublemoving between their parents’ homes. They may become upset, yet once there become settled and happy in the other parent’s home. Children will do better if each parent can display a positive attitude during transitions and give some advance notice of any anticipated changes.

 Children of this age can benefit from structured time with children of their own age, away from their parents. Children are beginning to understand days and weeks, but not time.

 Pre-schoolers continue to need consistency and predictability. They may be changing their naptime or giving up naps altogether and parents must communicate about andtake into account their child’s changing sleep schedule.

 
 

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Shared Family Schedule: Birth to Nine Months, Part I

Infants learn at a rapid rate. They learn to love and trust familiar caregivers. Infants attach to parents and others through consistent, loving responses such as holding, playing, feeding, soothing, talking gently and meeting their needs promptly. They begin to respond to different approaches to parenting.

 

It was previously believed that infants formed a singular and exclusive attachment to one primary caregiver during the first year of life. Mental health professionals cautioned parents that disrupting this exclusive caregiver-child bond could cause lifelong adjustment problems. With this in mind, the notion of infant overnights away from the primary caregiver was rejected, without considering individual situations.

 

We now know that children form multiple and simultaneous attachments between six and nine months of age. In situations where both parents have been regularly involved with all aspects of caregiving – and the child has formed an attachment to both parents – the previous restrictions on overnights should be reconsidered. One objective of any parenting plan is to help children forge a meaningful relationship with both parents.

 

Infants should have frequent contact with both parents – and a predictable schedule and routine. Infants have a very limited capacity to remember an absent parent. However, they may have what are called emotional memories of things that are frightening to them, such as arguments between parents. Even infants can recognize anger and harsh words.

 

At about six months, infants begin to recognize their parents and other caregivers and within the next few months some may become uneasy around strangers. Infants trust regular caregivers to recognize their signals for food, comfort and sleep. Infants may become anxious and may experience eating and sleeping problems when they are with less familiar others.

 

It is important to maintain an infant’s basic sleep, feeding and waking cycle. Parents’ schedules should be adjusted to limit disruption to the infant’s routine. In creating plans for this age group, parents should consider the special needs of breastfeeding infants.

 
 

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