Having children links you together as parents forever, even after separation. The challenge following a separation is to make your relationship and communication as positive as possible for the benefit of the children, that’s where parenting plans can help. Family dispute resolution (mediation) may be valuable in assisting you with developing a parenting plan of your own.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents covering practical issues of parental responsibility. Parenting plans can detail practical decisions about children’s care in areas such as:
- parenting styles
- living arrangements
Discussing how you communicate with each other, and with your children, are a good foundation for a parenting plan. We’ve developed 5 useful communication tips to consider when developing a parenting plan.
1. Choose (and agree) on the best methods of communication
Positive parental communication us vital for your children – use the parenting plan to outline how you both want to maintain positive communication. This may mean agreeing to communicate by telephone, text messaging, email or by having regular meetings. It can mean using what has worked best in the past or trying something new.
2. Respect each other
Agree on ground rules for respectful communication. For example, when is it ok to call each other and when is it not? What notice is reasonable if one of you has to change contact arrangements due to sickness or work commitments?
3. Discuss religion, values and principles
It is useful to discuss some of the values and principles that you agree are important in bringing up your children. You can then document these as part of a parenting plan. This can include such things as schooling, religion or other important cultural considerations. Children’s link to the extended family can also be considered in your parenting plan.
4. Talk about major changes
Major decisions, such as shifting house or moving schools affect your children greatly. The arrival of a new partner can also be another important adjustment for your children. You may agree, as parents, to discuss these major decisions together, where appropriate, before involving the children. Other important things you may wish to consider can include making or changing wills and ongoing care in case of illness.
5. Communicate with the kids while you are apart
Being separated means that your children are nearly always away from one of you. This can present challenges in how children can communicate with parents, especially the parent who is not present at any given time. It is important for your children that both parents are on the ‘same page’ regarding communication with each of you and that they have appropriate flexibility to communicate freely. It’s also very important that children are forced to take on the role of messengers between the parents.
Interested in making your own parenting plan? Contact your nearest Relationships Australia office to get started.