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4 Essential things to include in a parenting plan

Crafting a successful parenting plan is one of the more challenging aspects of divorce for families. In addition to determining how your children will divide their time between you and your ex, parents will also need to agree on how to handle future key events and decision-making.

While it would be impossible to plan for every possible issue that arises when parents are not together, a solid parenting plan can cover a broad range of parenting scenarios that parents can turn to as a point of reference. Here are four topics parents should consider when working out co-parenting solutions:

1. Holidays and special occasions

Holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions can be difficult after break up. No parent is likely to get every holiday or event that is significant in the family every year. However there are ways to balance things out over time. A parenting plan that establishes a schedule for holiday time, vacations, and school breaks for several years into the future can help ensure everyone knows what to expect, so they can plan ahead.

2. Contact with extended family

In most families it is beneficial for  children to be able to maintain relationships with their extended relatives such as their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of the family. A parenting plan might  allocate time for children to communicate and visit with extended family and loved ones after divorce or provide for some flexibility for those times when  weddings, funerals or other important family events don’t coincide with times the children are scheduled to be with the relevant parent.

3. Communication when apart

It’s a good idea for parents to establish how and when they will communicate with their children when they are with the other parent– especially if one parent has less parenting time than the other, or the times away from a parent are lengthy. Texts, phone calls or video chats are just a few ways parents can stay connected with their children when they’re with the other parent.

4. Parenting schedule changes

A good parenting plan should include some room for flexibility and the unexpected. Parents can lay out plans for how far in advance they’d like to know about any proposed changes to the parenting schedule and how they should communicate about it. They can also work out what to do if last-minute changes and emergencies come up.

In a parenting plan, there’s no one-size-fits-all layout for families. The more thorough parents are with their planning now, the less likely conflict will occur down the road.