Updated: May 15
One of the most important parts of the ‘how’ is the ‘who’ doing the ‘how’.
Vanilla or 31 Flavors?
I wish every family had a chance to preview a vanilla parenting plan common in the courts compared to a carefully crafted parenting plan designed by collaborative divorce professionals with parents and a child specialist (or an adult child specialist). The crafted parenting plan is like going to Baskin Robbins - so many more choices, so many more options to fit your particular circumstances.
Vanilla ice cream is the most popular ice cream in the states - it has its place! But is it desirable as a parenting plan style for you and your children?
Our unique and precious children will likely favor more than one flavor. We all know that ‘one size fits all’ for kids is not realistic. Not only are our children unique, so are we - each parent a world full of different preferences, strengths, needs and hopes. That being the case, you’ll want professionals who bring many flavours (options) to the table and you’ll want to participate in creating your 31 flavors.
A vanilla, cookie-cutter parenting plan is likely to miss the special qualities (strengths and challenges) of your children, yourself and the co-parenting relationship. Your voice and your children’s will exist in the crafted plan as is not possible in the ‘standard’ plan. Not only does the crafted parenting plan reflect you two as parents and the uniqueness of your children, it tends to prevent problems cropping up later.
The ‘who’ may be the single biggest factor in how to generate a durable parenting plan.
Collaboratively Trained Professionals
First, each parent should have a legal professional in their court who is trained in collaborating with other divorce professionals. A ‘who’ that is trained in negotiation and cooperation as well as the legal requirements of a parenting plan will be indispensable to you. You want someone in your corner who knows the law, knows how to protect family relationships during a divorce and works toward the best outcome for you and your family.
Child Specialist/Adult Child Specialist
Second, parents can seek out a ‘child specialist’ who’s primary task will be to help you with co-creating a plan that is crafted with your specific kid’s needs, strengths, hopes, and experiences woven into the parenting plan. This ‘who’ helps you and your co-parent design the how of your parenting plan so it meets the developmental and emotional needs of your children. Kids who have a chance to participate in a meaningful, developmentally appropriate way about decisions directly affecting their lives in the divorce fair better than kids left in the dark.
Third, each of you will want a divorce coach to help you process the options in front of you as well as the emotional blowback that can impede our best thinking. This mental health divorce professional is in your corner to build communication and find the words for your goals and interests. This coach is incredibly useful in managing the divorce stress. When under duress, blood flow is reduced to our brain, cutting off access to our frontal lobe - the region for critical thinking and judgement. Your divorce coach will help you stay regulated so your best brain can help you find your best options.
Though mentioned last, it may be most important that this ‘who’ is someone you have a sense of fit with, who is not just well trained but who ‘gets’ what you are trying to communicate and creates a sense of safety.
To that end, I offer consultations as well as recommendations. As a mental health professional I mediate parenting plans, am a divorce coach and child specialist for adolescents and adult children of divorce. I am happy to provide to referrals for legal professionals with special training in collaboration. Just push a button and we will be in contact!