One of the most important parts of a parenting plan is the ‘how’ is the ‘who’ doing the ‘how’.
Vanilla or 31 Flavors
I wish every family had a chance to preview a vanilla parenting plan common in the courts compared to a carefully crafted parenting plan designed by the parents with the help of the collaborative divorce professionals including a child specialist. Vanilla ice cream is the most popular ice cream in the United States—it has its place! However, for our unique and precious children who are much more than one flavor, is a vanilla parenting plan a good fit?
Not only are our children unique, and so are we—each parent is a world of different flavors. A vanilla, cookie-cutter parenting plan is likely to miss the special qualities (strengths and challenges) of your children, yourself and in the co-parenting relationship. Your voice and your children’s needs will exist in the crafted plan in a way that is not possible in the ‘standard’ plan. Not only does the crafted parenting plan reflect you as parents and the uniqueness of your children, but it also tends to prevent problems cropping up later.
The ‘who’ may be the single biggest factor in how to generate a durable parenting plan.
Collaboratively Trained Professionals
First, each parent should have a legal professional in their court who is trained in collaborating with other divorce professionals. A ‘who’ that is trained in negotiation and cooperation as well as the legal requirements of a parenting plan will be indispensable to you. You want someone in your court who knows the law, knows how to protect family relationships during a divorce, and will work toward the best outcome for you and your family.
Second, parents can seek out a ‘child specialist’ whose primary task will be to help you with co-creating a plan that is crafted with your specific kid’s needs, hopes, and experiences woven into the parenting plan. This ‘who’ helps you and your spouse design the ‘how’ of your parenting plan so that it meets the developmental and emotional needs of your children. Kids who have a chance to participate in a meaningful, developmentally appropriate way about decisions directly affecting their lives in the divorce fare better than kids left in the dark.
Third, each of you will want a divorce coach to help you process the options in front of you as well as the emotional blowback that can impede our best thinking. This mental health divorce professional is in your court to build communication and find the words for your goals and interests. This coach is incredibly useful in managing the divorce stress. When under duress, blood flow is reduced to our brain, cutting off access to our frontal lobe—the region for critical thinking and judgement. Your divorce coach will help you stay regulated so your best brain can help you find your best options.
Though mentioned last, it may be most important that this ‘who’ is someone you have a sense of fit with, who is not just well trained but who ‘gets’ what you are trying to communicate and creates a sense of safety.
To that end, I offer consultations as well as recommendations. As a mental health professional, I mediate parenting plans, am a divorce coach and child specialist for adolescents and adult children of divorce. I am happy to provide referrals for legal professionals with special training in collaboration. Just push a button and we will be in contact!