Divorced Parents: Making the Most of a Parenting Schedule
Written by: Kimberly Cook
As mom of a toddler and a divorce attorney, I have a unique understanding of the challenges divorced parents face when trying to determine a parenting schedule. Parents often worry about the impact of their divorce on their child, especially when the child is an infant or toddler. Changes will occur to the child’s daily routine, including adjusting to having two “homes” and not seeing Mommy or Daddy every day. Here are a few things parents should consider when establishing or modifying their parenting schedules:
Consistency is key. Design a parenting schedule based on your child’s daily routine. For infants, parents should structure their time according to the child’s schedule, making every effort to allocate time between both parents for eating, bathing and sleeping routines. Even breastfed babies can have regular parenting time with their fathers. Similarly, a parenting schedule for toddlers or school-age children should revolve around the child’s school or activities schedule. Try to ensure the child has a consistent non-parent child care provider in both parents’ homes.
Quality, not quantity. Parents often think that “it looks better” to request as much parenting time as possible. The problem with that misguided request is the intent has nothing to do with the child, but is about giving a false impression to the judge, family or friends. Create a schedule that allows you to maximize the quality of the time you have with your child, even if that means you have fewer visits than you would like.
Be a modern family. Incorporate mobile applications like Skype or Face Time into your daily telephone calls. Younger children, especially non-verbal children, will enjoy seeing Mommy or Daddy daily. Stay updated on and involved in your child’s activities and appointments with programs such as Our Family Wizard and Google Calendar.
Create a “new normal.” Create a “new normal” with your child regarding weekly visits, holidays, birthdays and school breaks. It is unlikely you will have your child on every holiday. For example, taking your child trick-or-treating does not have to occur on October 31. Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos, the Chicago Park District and many Chicago area indoor play-spaces host Halloween events on other days. Do not let a date on the calendar dictate your holiday celebration with your child.
- Be resourceful. Despite what you may think, your child is not the only with divorced parents. Even Sesame Street puppet Abby Cadabby has divorced parents! Reach out to friends, family, counselors and your lawyer for recommendations of programs to help you create a parenting schedule tailored to your family. Find NPN groups to help develop fun activities for your parenting time.
While creating a parenting schedule is not easy, taking everyone’s schedules into consideration, including your little ones’, makes all the difference. If you already have a Parenting Agreement, or would like establish one, you should first consult a lawyer who can help tailor your Agreement to your family’s needs.
Kimberly A. Cook is an attorney with Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, LLP. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.Posted on July 18, 2013 at 8:30 AM