Parents with children who are going through a divorce often struggle with the details of schedules, plans, and choices, as they search for a system that will work best for their child/children. When a parent asks me, “How should we do this?” my response is often in the vein that there isn’t one correct answer. Children are unique, as are family situations. It is also very important to pay attention to the developmental needs of each child. I often encourage parents to be “fair, consistent, and predictable, and make choices that will nurture a healthy, positive, and safe relationship between each child and each parent.”
It is very important that the parents avoid the blame game with children, where they explicitly or implicitly blame conflict and even the end of the marriage on the other parent. Children need to continue to idealize each parent, and remain connected to each parent during this difficult transition. Blaming a parent to the child disrupts the child’s ability to stay neutral and fosters increasing resentment and anger toward one parent. Similarly, it is in the best interest of the child if parents engage in the No Put Downs rule, where they are careful to not express negativity about the other parent regarding the divorce, parenting, finances, choices, etc. Again, children need to stay attached to both parents, and barraging the child with negatives about the other parent can be very disruptive to the child.
There are many excellent tools available for parents to use as guides as they restructure their lives and their children’s lives through the divorce process. The San Diego Court Child Custody Parenting Plan Handbook is a comprehensive but easy to follow guide for multiple issues surrounding divorce.