MyDivorcePapers Blog

We're here to make your life easier to manage and to help you begin your new start.

Growing Into Parenting PlansLast Tuesday we discussed The Basics of Creating a Parenting Plan, including the basic terminology. As we emphasized, and re-emphasized, each family needs their own parenting plan because each family is different. But as children grow, their parenting plan should too.

We aren’t trying to tell parents how to raise their children, we’re simply trying to inform people of the recommended ways to handle divorce during these four age groups/developmental stages.

Seeds: Years 0-3

Due to the infant’s developmental stage, prolonged separation (like consecutive overnight visits) from a primary caregiver (the parent who usually bathes, feeds, clothes, and plays with the infant) can lead to anxiety and stress within the infant, as observed by researchers who studied child development during divorce. Unfortunately, stress, anxiety, and other feelings of instability can pause development considerably.

Researchers believe the primary parent’s care gained the infant’s trust and attachment, while the other parent (the non-primary parent with visitation) had not. Researchers suggest creating a parenting plan wherein the non-primary parent takes the infant for small amounts of time until that parent has gained the infant’s trust, and the infant has become equally attached to them. It is also recommended to limit, if not halt, overnight visits for the non-primary parent until they have nurtured a trusting, secure relationship with the infant.

Buds: Years 4-7

Children in this age range can communicate and comprehend more, yet divorce is not a concept they understand. What they do understand, however, is there is a major change about to occur in their lives (which may or may not be their fault), and that makes them anxious. The usual response to anxiety and major changes for children 4-7 is reverting back to infant/toddler habits (speaking in baby-talk, not wanting to do newly-learned tasks alone, and possibly bed-wetting).

What children in this age range need is reassurance and stability to further development and grow emotionally. Both parents must make themselves available to talk about what happened and reiterate lovingly the divorce was not their fault. However, actions are louder than words, so both parents also need to maintain the same discipline and parenting style. Maintaining stability might mean working up to overnight visits in the parenting plan. Keeping the child in the same room/bed every night in the beginning will ease the child into the new family lifestyle. It’s not that the child doesn’t trust the other (non-primary) parent, the child is just too sensitive, unsure, and anxious to process first-hand such a new concept as parents living in separate places just yet.

Sproutlings: Years 8-12

This age range includes the school kids, who have a little bigger world than younger children (whose parents are basically their entire world), so they will better understand what filing for divorce means. They won’t necessarily know how to react to the divorce, though. Children this age grasp of concepts, but the world is very simplistic, things and people are either good or bad; being so, the children might try to find a hero and a villain in the divorce.

The best way to handle this age range is to teach them to express and accept their feelings, which means you must do the same too. Don’t point fingers, blame, or punish anyone for the divorce (even if you really think it’s someone’s fault), instead let the child continue to grow their relationship with both parents. The parenting plan can, and should be, divided more equally, but don’t push the child into it if they are not ready to spend nights away from their own bed. Ask what they feel about the parenting plan, and find a compromise.

Blooms: Years 13-18

Even though your child is technically a teen now, they are still children in need of stability. Tweens and teens are currently trying to figure out how to stand in the world by themselves, while still needing their parents. For them to make this transition from teen to young adult, they need stability and encouragement; but the divorce wipes both of those things away in their minds.

In respect to the parenting plan, it would be a good idea to allow tweens and teens to have more of a say about where and when they will be from day to day, and by being flexible with the parenting plan to not infringe on your teen’s right to be a teen. But letting the teen help draft the parenting plan doesn’t mean letting them make all the decisions; maintain consistency (which will reinforce stability) in the way you and your spouse parent your teen. Parents must also allow the teen to ask questions and relay feelings throughout the divorce process, and without judgement or shame.

Whew! That was a long blog, but in case you feel like you need for information, here’s another age-by-age guide to dealing with divorce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Home | Leadership Team | Help Center | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Disclaimer

© 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Back to Top