So you want to know how to go about creating a great shared parenting schedule for your kid(s). You just want to do what’s best for them! Creating a schedule seems pretty easy, but throw two emotional exes into the mix…and viola, you end up with a shit sandwich.
Let’s avoid that, please!
Hopefully, you have a decent enough relationship with your ex right now that you’re able to communicate still. If so, that’s AMAZING. I’ll show you later how to keep it that way when bringing up this whole schedule proposal.
In order to make an effective shared parenting schedule, you have to lay the foundation of what you’re trying to achieve with this schedule. First and foremost, the focus HAS to be on your child and only on your child.
If you are striving for “fairness” between you and the other parent, or how it would be too heartbreaking to not see your child majority of the time…your focus is NOT on your child. It’s on you or the other parent.
There are 3 key things your child needs:
Stability + Routine
Stability– When creating a schedule, you have to establish a stable environment. That does NOT necessarily mean one primary home. In a nut shell, stability is created through love, quality time and attention to their needs.
Routine– Next, you have to create predictability for your child. It doesn’t mean a super simple schedule they can comprehend, but rather a very high level of communication that explains things to them BEFORE it happens (adjusted to their age). You can accomplish this using visual aids like a calendar.
Security– This doesn’t mean how wealthy one parent is vs. the other. This security is accomplished through stability and routine. Those two things create a structured environment for your child to feel safe and secure in their life.
I don’t want to mess up my kid for life!
You would expect that kids get messed up due to divorce. But in reality, kids actually adjust well to divorce within 1-2 years, after they have gone through the grieving process.
Their long-term lives don’t get messed up over the divorce, they get messed up over being placed in the middle of adult conflict, learning about adult problems and never being asked what they want.
Can you imagine being completely out of control of your own life? Where two people that can’t stand each other are fighting over you? They will stop at nothing to achieve YOU, the prize.
It could just make you SCREAM! Or run away! Or just act out in general, just trying to be heard. So don’t be afraid to just ask what they want. I know you’re scared of the answer you may hear, but I’ll talk about that in a second.
Okay, so back to avoiding the shit sandwich…
Now that you have the foundation of stability, routine and security…you can start brainstorming a schedule. Things to consider are your work schedule and your ex’s work schedule, geographic location, daycare/school.
If you’re looking for 50/50 schedules, here are some you may not have thought of yet.
Now, come up with 2-3 different schedules. They don’t have to be absolutely perfect just yet. You should strive for a 50/50 set up, but sometimes it’s just not feasible with work or geographic location, so don’t beat yourself up over it if it’s something out of your control, work with what you have.
Sometimes, what’s best for your child may not be what you expected
Also, you MUST consider options where you are not the “primary” caregiver, meaning your child may be with the other parent more. I know what you’re thinking…I CAN’T DO THAT! I get it…100%. But that doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for your kid!
There comes a point where you have to let go of the reins. You have to consider the fact that your child WILL be okay without you around 100% of the time. It will be okay. I deployed away from my son for 8 months, then the next year his dad had him majority of the time because of my work schedule. And guess what came of it?
My son and his dad have the most amazing bond ever; my son is an upstanding young gentleman that is so smart and caring. I don’t know if he would have ended up like that if I would have been around him for the time I lost. I don’t even want to find out either! Because the outcome is great, and that is what matters.
You have to accept that your new family dynamic may not be one that you had considered before…and that’s the one where you may not have your child as much as you thought. And that’s OKAY. Because we don’t live in a perfect world, and you’re joining a huge population of people that are going through the same thing as you. So reach out for emotional support vs. letting it bleed onto your kids. Here’s my Facebook Group to get the support you need.
The schedules you come up with can be hypothetical, like if we had daycare we could do this schedule. Or, if I got this new job we could implement this one.
Now, take each schedule and write the pros and cons. For instance, a pro would be “gets to spend equal time with both parents.” Con would be, “would have to pay $XXX for daycare every month.”
Communication is key
Then, set up a time to go over the schedules with your ex. Give them a heads up, say “I’ve been looking into some schedule options, I would like to sit down and talk to you about them. Please bring any ideas you have, I’m all ears.” That way they aren’t blind-sided or on the defense right away. You can get more tips on how to beef up your verbal judo by taking my 5-day communication challenge here.
At the meeting (without your kids), lay out your 2-3 schedule ideas. The purpose of the meeting is to strictly talk about schedules, so anything else that is brought up, gets redirected to the focus topic (schedules). Also, make sure to keep an open mind and open ears, like you promised. Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand.
Hopefully, you can reach an agreement without the courts having to step in…because that’s what we’re trying to avoid (the shit sandwich). If you can reach a feasible agreement together, BRAVO! Not only do you win, but your kids win too!
Now get out there and get to work! You selfless-parent you!