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Using your parenting plan to provide consistency in co-parenting

One of the biggest challenges that Rhode Island parents face when they divorce is finding a way to co-parent their children in a way that provides the children with the structure they need while getting as much time with each parent as possible.

This often means that parents need to remain consistent regardless of whose house the children are at during a given time. The need for structure and consistency requires a balance with the freedom of each of you to parent the way you see fit. Fortunately, your parenting plan can provide you both with an outline to follow while allowing each of you to fill in the details that best fit your parenting style.

Working consistency and structure into a parenting plan

In order to accomplish these seemingly disparate goals, you may find it useful to include the following in your parenting plan:

  • The house rules: One of the biggest issues most children encounter when spending time with their parents separately is that the rules change. As part of your negotiations, you could establish some rules that remain consistent regardless of which house the children reside. 
  • The house schedule: If one parent allows for play before homework and the other does the opposite, this could cause discord between the parents and confusion for the children. If both houses have roughly the same schedule, then the children know what to expect regardless of where they are, and one parent doesn't feel like the "bad guy."
  • The house routine: This goes along with the schedule. If each child has certain chores to do at one home, then it may be a good idea for each child to perform the same chores at the other home as well. 
  • The house consequences: It helps if discipline remains consistent between homes. The children need to understand that even though their parents are no longer together, they can't pit one against the other. If the same actions have the same consequences in each home, it helps the children understand that certain behaviors and actions will not be tolerated. Perhaps more importantly, it shows the children that you and the other parent are on the same page. 
  • The house bedtime routine: The need for structure often surrounds bedtime. If the children are used to a certain routine prior to going to sleep, and are used to going to bed at a certain time, it would help to keep this consistent at both homes. Throwing off a child's schedule could have unintended consequences at school or in behavior. In addition, each child may need something special in order to get a good night's sleep such as a blanket, stuffed animal or bedtime story.

Outlining these issues -- and any others unique to your family -- in your parenting plan makes it clear to each parent what each of you expects while the children are with the other parent. In addition, it also lets the children know what to expect regardless of which parent they reside with on any given day.

Including agreements on these topics in your parenting plan may also keep the other parent from attempting to micromanage you or continuously reminding you of certain things. This may relieve some unneeded stress between the parents, which may also reduce the potential for conflicts.

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