Divorce: Facilitating Child Development
involvement provides for a lifelong relationship with children.
For separated or divorced parents this can be achieved by a dynamic
“child-up parenting plan” approach.
parenting plan” approach assumes children need and want the best
relationship possible with both parents and that the involvement
of both parents is important to the emotional health of children
now and for their future. Essential to achieving a plan then is
an understanding of the developmental needs of children from current
age to when they leave home.
Parents may require
education on their children’s needs and how these needs change
as they grow. Needs may be related to education, religion, health,
extra-curricular activities, residence and daily care. The child-up
approach takes all these into account and then builds upon the
resources, availability and desires of each parent to meet these
needs over time. If either parent is lacking in knowledge, skill
or ability, the plan may also include counseling or parenting
classes. The basic belief is that parents will do whatever is
necessary to best meet their children’s needs and will undertake
activities to prepare themselves if necessary.
Parents will have
to adapt to different stages according to their children’s development.
The parenting plan must therefore be dynamic, as it will need
to change with time.
With infant children,
one parent may be more relied upon to provide day-to-day care.
However, the other parent should be provided opportunity to bond
and form attachments through frequent visits. As children become
toddlers, pre-schoolers and then school aged, they are increasingly
exposed to the world. So rather than an arbitrary rule that provides
a mid week visit, parents can negotiate and share responsibilities
for transportation or swimming lessons or after-school activities.
Sharing responsibilities pragmatically changes parents’ duration,
frequency, time, activity and exposure to their children in a
way that is natural.
In other words,
parental time with children is as much task-specific as time-directed.
As the demands of school increase, one parent may provide assistance
with math homework, while the other with English. The key is to
develop the parenting plan for meaningful, goal directed and structured
activity aimed towards meeting the needs of children at particular
ages. Close parent-child relationships form through positive involvement
with typical daily tasks.
of sharing parental responsibilities through a “child-up parenting
plan” is the reduced risk of one parent taking on the role of
the disciplinarian while the other parent develops a kind of fantasyland
relationship. Children benefit from access to both parents according
to their needs and parental abilities. Further, it distributes
the demands placed upon parents and can reduce their stress.
involvement throughout childhood will determine how well children
are able to accept parental guidance and direction come adolescence.
This will be vital and protective at this time in their lives.
While many people think that peer pressure has more influence
on teen behavior, this is only true for teens who have tenuous
parental relationships. Parents who have long established, good
and significant relationship with their children can actually
have more influence on them during adolescence than their teen
will determine relationships and well-being later. If a “child-up
parenting plan” is developed and followed, both parents can be
dancing at their children’s wedding and then taking turns babysitting
Direnfeld is a child-behaviour expert, social worker, and author
of Raising Kids Without Raising Cane.
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