Whether your children are newborns or young adults, they have an undisputed legal right to be nurtured, fed, protected, appropriately disciplined, and guided through life’s joys and difficulties. Parents and caregivers are obliged to act in each child’s best interests. For the parents and partners acting as a parent to a child in a new or blended family, or for those separating, crafting a balanced, developing viable parenting plan can be daunting. Trust develops when parents are supportive of each other’s efforts and contributions. Relying on that trust sends a positive message to the children. As the children grow and develop, being flexible to tweak a weekend routine or discuss modify the summer schedule will be easier. Best Interests of the Child Each child is as unique as the family they were born into or finding themselves stepping in as a new member. On the flip side, adults finding themselves as new parents are taking community offered parenting courses to learn best parenting practices for their children. For separating parents, there are lots of things weighing on their minds. Dedicating the time to develop clear terms reduces confusion down the road. Which residence offers the better school? Will the children be able to move freely between both homes? There is a new wave of parents seeking to design a home with a children’s area situated between separated parent’s living quarters. Others are considering purchasing multi- level homes so each generation resides on a different level. Or, maybe for your family it’s two separate residences within a fixed radius. The plan should meet the needs of each child meshing with a parent’s capabilities, strengths, and talents. A child may express a strong preference to live with the parent who has the latest tech gadgetry and less discipline. Parents know their children perform better at school with well managed sleep routines and regular nutritious meals. A parent who has more patience may be more comfortable parenting the youngest while the sport enthusiast parent will be keen to care for the high activity child. Security, Safety, and Predictability When considering scheduling parenting time, predictability in a child’s routine is important for youngsters. The same mealtime, bedtime rituals, and quiet environment for tackling homework helps each child adjust and feel valued. A safe and secure home base fosters strong self esteem and confidence. Keeping involved grandparents to care for the young children afterschool as they have done the past couple of years offers stability, consistency, and familiarity for young children. It also keeps costs down for parents burdened with now looking for separate homes. Communication and Transportation Factoring into the scheduling plan are medical appointments, educational sessions such as tutoring or gifted classes, and team practices. Parents are facing more time on the road as the number and sophistication of children’s’ activities increase. Children letting off steam in the backyard has been abandoned for enrollment in expensive skill development programs. Parents are now balancing texting, messaging and phone calls between them and the children to keep everything and everyone on track. Flexibility, Cost and Growth The parenting plan not only looks at the present but anticipates future events such as college and trade schools. Parents have many options available to them to rigorously save early for such milestones. Financial flexibility and cost sharing to meet child expenses becomes paramount. Employment health plans are coordinated so expenses can be absorbed by the best accommodating plan. House league may be substituted for rep hockey to make ends meet so team and skills development may continue. Issue resolution: Judge or Parenting coordinator? How parents communicate with each other to satisfy these scheduling and cost issues demonstrates their ability to focus on their child’s needs. Sometimes, they just aren’t able to find middle ground. Parenting plan will provide steps to help parents resolve these differences. Often the issue resolution starts with an effort between the parents to accurately express the problem in writing. This can sometimes clear up assumptions and lay bare the competing needs and desires at stake. If satisfaction has not been reached for both parents, the next step may be to bring in a mediator or parenting coordinator. If interest based mediation helped the parents achieve the first parenting arrangement, this may again help unlock a stalemate. The collaborative process offers a neutral parenting specialist or parenting coordinator to work out a child-focused plan. Having a court order in hand means returning to court to vary the order setting out the terms of the parenting plan. If you are designing a child-focused parenting plan, call Lorisa Stein at 416 596-8081 or connect with her through the Contact Page.