When you have children, routines and schedules help everyone know what happens next on any given day. This especially comes in handy during the school year when everyone needs to be up at a certain time, make it to extracurricular activities and get done with homework. Without some consistency, the household may not run smoothly, and that's often when chaos ensues.
After a divorce, routines and schedules take on a new importance. With all of the inevitable changes that occur during and after a divorce, children need to know that some things remain the same. In addition, now that the children may be traveling between two homes, consistency becomes a paramount consideration.
Negotiating some consistency
When creating your parenting plan, you and the other parent may include as much detail as you like. This allows you to negotiate some rules that remain consistent between both households such as those below:
- If the rules between the two homes aren't at least loosely consistent, it may confuse the children. They need to know what each of you expects from them regardless of which parent they happen to be with at the time.
- It may also be a good idea to keep discipline fairly consistent as well. This prevents the children from perceiving one parent as the "bad guy" and lets them know that they can get away with some things at one parent's house and not at the other parent's.
- Keep the routine about the same at each home, especially when it comes to tasks such as homework and chores.
- Meal times need to remain consistent, along with the rituals surrounding them. For instance, do the kids watch television during meals, or does everyone sit around the table and talk?
- Bedtime rituals are also important, especially for younger children. They may need to do things in a certain order or need a certain stuffed animal or toy to get to sleep.
Routines and schedules provide comfort for children, especially younger ones. When both parents keep things as consistent as possible between homes, it provides the children with a sense of security and safety at a time when many things are out of their control. Each of you should have the freedom to create your own parenting style within this outline.
Once you make these and the other decisions you need in order to give co-parenting the best start possible, putting together the parenting plan may require some assistance in order to help ensure that it covers everything you and the other parent need it to and meets with the approval of the court.