Key Four of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Honoring Agreements

Divorce sends shockwaves through your sense not just of yourself. It can rattle your sense of order in the world. If a commitment as permanent as marriage can fall apart, what else can? In fact, is there anything we can count on?

This sort of ground-shifting feeling is completely normal after a divorce. Let’s face it. Divorce isn’t in anyone’s “plan”.

But that doesn’t mean that everything changes, or should change. Commitments still have value. And sometimes, in the face of divorce, doubling down on commitments is exactly the path that brings certainty, strength and the power to move on.

This is especially true for parents.

I recently sat down with Dr. Jeremy Gaies to discuss collaborative divorce and its effects on children. Dr. Gaies is a clinical psychologist, family mediator, and author of two books, A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce. He describes the six steps to mindful co-parenting. This month we’ve been examining how to communicate effectively. The next piece of the puzzle is to honor agreements—especially with your ex.

Parenting Plan: What is It?

A parenting plan is a blueprint for how you will continue to co-parent with your ex. It can be as detailed as you like, but must contain simple information about where the child will be at what days and times. It should include details about whether parental check-in is required (at a class, for example, or if your children are young). It should also contain simple contact information in each section—both for the location/person in charge and for the parent.

The specificity of the plan isn’t just about providing details for an ex (so don’t feel like you’re just taking on your ex’s work—a common complaint for divorcing partners). It’s critical to kids’ sense of security that they know what’s going on ahead of time and can make plans.

What’s important here is that your plan contain all the relevant information without wasting too much time on details that might feel like an attack, gloating or a passive-aggressive attack on the other parent. You can leave out details about what friends your child may be with or what you’re doing while your child is engaged in that activity. (Even details like “while I’m at the gym” might contain land mines/triggers for your ex.)

Set in Stone, Sort of

One important thing to note is that a parenting plan, while agreed upon and “final” can also be flexible. What I mean is not that it can change day by day or week to week, but that it’s something you and your ex will revisit over and over again in the course of your ongoing relationship. As a parent, of course you know that your preschooler’s needs aren’t going to be the same in a few years when they’re in elementary school or a couple years beyond that when they’re in high school. So it stands to reason that your parenting plan will also change and evolve. So while getting a plan down on paper is critical, don’t worry if you aren’t sure it’s perfect yet.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.