Parenting Schedules: How to Pick a Routine for Your Family
For co-parents, deciding on a parenting schedule is one of the most significant measures to take soon after a divorce or separation. More than just overnights, parents must consider many aspects of their kids' schedules like school events, medical appointments, meal times, extracurriculars, holidays, bedtimes, and more.
Parents understand the needs of their children better than anyone, and it's essential that they use that knowledge to craft the perfect parenting schedule that caters to those needs before anything else. While the task may be to divide parenting responsibilities across their two homes, working together to make these decisions for the kids is an excellent foot to start on in co-parenting.
A one-size-fits-all parenting schedule does not exist, but there are a few routines commonly used by parents that cater to many different family situations. If you and your co-parent are working out parenting time and scheduling logistics, one of these routines could be a good pattern for your family to follow.
A biweekly parenting schedule would allow the kids to spend one entire week living with each parent at a time. This routine could make a good fit for older kids with busier schedules or when parents live across town from one another. Whether exchanges take place in the middle of the week or during the weekend, agree on a time of the week to bring the kids between homes. Think about how you will be exchanging parenting time. Will you drop the kids off and each of your homes, or will you decide on a location to make parenting time exchanges?
Biweekly parenting schedules do create long stretches of parenting time, yet some families may integrate a mid-week visit or overnight with the other parent. This makes it so neither parent goes a full week without seeing their children and can be a workable option for parents who live close to each other.
Like a biweekly routine, schedules with a 2-2-3 rotation allow parents to split time with their kids 50/50. In each routine, each parent would have their kids for a couple of days, then they would go to be with the other parent for a couple of days, and the cycle continues from there.
In a 2-2-3 routine, children are with one parent for two days, then with the other parent for two days. Next, the kids go back to the first parent for a 3-day weekend. From there, the routine will begin again but with the other parent having the kids for two days, flipping the routine.
The benefit to a routine with frequent parenting time exchanges is that parents and children get to spend time together more frequently. Yet it can be difficult for parents who don't live very close to transport their children between homes. Moreover, children who have difficulty making frequent transitions may have a hard time with this routine.
2-2-5-5, and 3-3-4-4 Routines
2-2-5-5 and 3-3-4-4 routines are 50/50 schedules that also call for more frequent transitions. But unlike the 2-2-3 routine, these schedules allow parents and children to spend regular days together throughout the week.
For example, a 2-2-5-5 routine calls for a child to be with one parent Monday and Tuesday, with the other parent Wednesday and Thursday, then back with the first parent for five full days which, here, would go from Friday to Tuesday. For from there, the schedule flips and begins with the other parent. In this routine, children are with the same parent consistently Monday through Thursday while weekends are a variable. 3-3-4-4 routines create similar consistency by placing children within the same house on regular days of the week.
The regularity of these schedules is a bonus here, as well as the long stretches of time where no transitions occur. This could make it easier for a parent to continually attend music lessons, sports practice, and other events with their child every week.
Not every family divides parenting time evenly. In this situation, the home of the custodial parent will be where the children live most of the time, while the other parent spends time with them during mid-day visitations or for short overnights.
Some popular parenting schedules for non-50/50 rotations include alternating weekends where the children will spend every other weekend with their other parent, returning to their primary home on Sunday. Along with alternating weekends, some families incorporate a mid-week visitation where the kids can spend a little time with their other parent so that they don't go a full week without seeing each other. Alternatively, some families incorporate a mid-week overnight or go for an extended alternating weekend, creating more time for the children to spend with their other parent.
Communication is essential
Every family is unique, and attending to the needs of your children first and foremost when it comes to parenting schedules is key. But you and your co-parent may have jobs and other life variables that you can't readily adjust to achieve a regular parenting schedule. In these situations, communication is paramount.
Keep in touch with your kids if you cannot readily be available to visit or spend overnights with them. Video chat is an excellent option, as are secure messaging systems to share photos and maintain a dialogue. Also, keep a shared calendar with your co-parent and discuss how you can work in time for your children to spend with each of you when possible. While it'll be handy to keep a shared calendar even if you do have a regular rotating parenting schedule, families without a solid routine will benefit from sharing a calendar so that everyone is on the same page.
Picking the perfect parenting schedule for your family might mean one thing today and something entirely different as your kids grow older. Observe your children and discuss with your co-parent how the current schedule seems to be going. If the time comes for a change, remember to keep your kids and their needs first in your new parenting schedule. Making the parenting schedule easy for your kids will hopefully help keep things smooth for you and your co-parent, too.