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the parenting plan

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Parenting courses are great. There is cake. You feel that you are bonding with others who are in the same pain. You swing between varying degrees of feeling slightly inadequate to more inadequate to the most inadequate in the room and back to being proud. If nothing else, you feel less alone. But, bar the wine (duh, obvious and how can you get that wrong?), there is one other thing missing. One thing that I feel would make a difference to me on a very practical level.

You see I have never believed in vanilla approaches. In fact I have a deep mistrust of anything cookie cutter. So while we learn a lot on these courses the problem lies in applying them because children are each different and unique and so are parents. What I would like to go away with is a parenting plan….

I recently qualified as a family and divorce mediator and this is where I learnt about the brilliance of a parenting plan. I’m truly of the opinion that this should not only be for divorcing couples. In fact, by having said plan you will probably prevent yourself from getting to the divorce stage altogether. So divorcing couples would have to ask each other things such as what do we do in a crisis – do I contact you, the other parent first, or do I get our child medical help first? They would have to agree on things such as what times kids would be dropped off and picked up and who may attend Christmas concerts. Everything must be agreed on by both parties and everything is put in writing. This plan can then be made an order of the court to give it even more weight and hold both parents accountable.

This plan would be a contract if you like. A promise of consistent behavior between me and the baby daddy. So for example, if the facilitator of the parenting course gives advice about bed time routine, let us as a couple sit down and discuss how to make it work in our unique zoo and then let’s put it in writing. And typical to any new routine or ritual lets make it realistic, inspirational, time specific, unshakable, aligned with both our values and lasting (get it? R-I-T-U-A-L). The inspirational part could be challenging…but anyway. The whole thing is rather challenging.

Couples who are not divorcing might consider some of the following questions as part of their parenting plan aka agreement to consistency:
When child a comes to your bed at 2am what do you do and who is responsible for performing this minor miracle?
While one parent is busy performing minor miracles with child a at 2 in the am and child b starts screaming what do you do? Who does it? What do you do if the plan does not work?
When one of your offspring starts banging his or her head in front of a group of people you know clearly not well enough for head banging, what do you do? If this plan does not work what is plan B?
When your child pees on a stranger’s carpet, do you tell them? Do you clean it? Do you fake ignorance?
When your child insists on sitting on the table at a restaurant and empty sugar packets and one parent does not mind because the child is busy and engaged in sensory play of sorts but the other parent is dying of embarrassment, who is right?

Please comment if you have any important questions that might be added to a parenting plan. You could be saving a marriage.

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