Creating a Parenting Plan

In family mediation I work with parents who are separating to create their Parenting Plan. This plan details how they will move forward in their new relationship as co-parents. And while creating the Parenting Plan can be difficult at times and the discussion can be tense, the real work starts after mediation when they begin to carry out their plan.

It takes time, effort and flexibility to create a successful co-parenting relationship. But the energy put into this comes back to you ten-fold when you see your children happy and thriving.

These days, one could argue, successful co-parenting is more important than ever. As children and teens get ready to head back to school they will once again be spending a large portion of their days away from you, their parent and instead be in the company of friends, other students and outside influences.

We’ve all read the stats in the last few years on what is being called the “Opioid Crisis.” It seems every generation has their scares around drugs. I’ll date myself as I recall my own mom talking to me when she heard “angel dust” was making the rounds of schools and to beware of people offering strange pills or powders. But the Opioid Crisis is different. The average number of opioid deaths in BC for the beginning of 2019 was 89 per month. 89 per month! The majority of these deaths occur in private residences. This crisis is taking place in the homes of our friends, family and co-workers.

So let’s go back to co-parenting after separation and connect it to the opioid crisis. If you and your child’s other parent are experiencing poor communication or worse yet, no communication there is a risk that you will miss signs, warnings or red flags that something is going on for your child. An opioid overdose would be at the extreme end of that risk but a lack of effective communication between parents can create a situation where things like emotional distress, depression or difficulty in school go missed or go unsupported. Mental health issues for children and teens is on the rise. Anxiety disorders are the most common illness to affect children and youth.

Effective co-parenting

So what does effective co-parenting look like? First of all, let me dispel the myth that it means you are great friends and everything is sunshine and buttercups. You don’t have to be best friends or even friends at all to be successful co-parents. Here are a few hallmarks of a successful co-parenting relationship.

  • You work hard to try and understand the other parent’s point of view.

    Putting yourself in the other parent’s shoes helps to build empathy between you.

  • You are open and flexible with your parenting schedule.

    This not only teaches your children how to be flexible but it also encourages a give and take between you and the other parent.

  • You communicate directly with the other parent.

    Communicating through your children puts them in the middle and they will resent you for it.

  • You show your kids a united front.

    Get on the same page when it comes to important issues with your kids and work together to deal with them.

  • You never bad-mouth the other parent in front of your kids.

    That is their parent and they are a reflection of their parents. When you bad-mouth the other parent you are bad-mouthing your kids.

  • You encourage a positive relationship with the other parent.

  • You seek outside help when it’s needed.

    Whether it’s revisiting a separation agreement that isn’t working or seeking counselling to build a better co-parenting relationship you are invested in making this work for the sake of your kids.

  • You enjoy your time off.

    When your kids are with the other parent enjoy this bit of “me” time. When you take care of yourself you are better able to take care of your kids.

Creating a new relationship with your ex is a process. It takes time and a whole lot of patience. But in doing so you are investing in your kids and keeping those lines of communication open as they navigate the world around them.

The first step is as simple as asking

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