Lori Frank/ Special to the Gazette
When parents who are separating come to family mediation, often the number one issue that needs to be resolved is parenting time.
In other words, the schedule they will follow for when their child or children will spend time with each parent. The schedule will lay the ground work for other pieces of the overall parenting plan such as parent responsibilities and child support.
Here are five things to consider when creating a parenting schedule:
1. The parenting schedule should not be considered a win-lose situation for parents. The schedule should reflect what is in the best interest of the children. Put yourself in your children’s shoes and consider how the schedule will impact their lives.
2. Consider the logistics. Your work schedules, your proximity to school and activities should all be weighed. Will your schedule require child care and if so, how will that be paid for and how will you choose a provider?
3. Don’t forget to plan for summer holidays, pro-d days and other special occasions. Will you need to save your vacation time and use more in the summer? Will you need to hire a care provider or schedule summer camps? If so, how will those things be paid for? If either of you plans to take the kids out of the country be sure you have paperwork in order giving permission from the other parent to present at border crossings.
4. When creating your schedule consider whether your children should be involved or not. Asking young children their preference is usually not practical. For older children, they may really appreciate having their preferences considered. Again, this is not a win-lose situation for you as the parent. This is about considering their best interests. Involving your children doesn’t mean they get to make all the decisions. You may not be able to agree to everything they request but it’s important that they feel they were heard. When parents find these conversations difficult this is actually a role your family mediator can take on. It is not uncommon for the family mediator to meet separately with your children so your child can speak freely and have their preferences considered in a way that feels more comfortable for everyone.
5. Be flexible. Inevitably, changes will need to be made here and there. Life happens. If a change needs to happen to accommodate the other parent, as long as it’s reasonable, go with it. And expect the same consideration in return. After you’ve made the change, get back to your usual schedule as soon as possible.
Parenting time can be difficult to figure out on your own. Emotions can get in the way of an effective conversation. This is where you may need to enlist some help. Family mediation can help you get through these difficult conversations while at the same time building a foundation for how you will communicate and make decisions in the future.
Lori Frank specializes in mediation and consulting in Greater Victoria.
Find the entire summer edition of West Shore Family online.