Child Development and Parenting Plans
As a family lawyer, it is essential that you have some knowledge of child development when designing parenting plans. Each developmental period of a child has its own challenges for parents. Even within developmental periods there are deviations dependent upon both the temperament and maturity of the child and the parent’s ability to manage them.
In the early years it is important that a child does not have lengthy separations from either parent. For infants, separation should be no more than every other night, assuming that both parents are knowledgeable about care taking. As a child enters the toddler stage, he/she is more capable of handling separation. Then the major issue becomes transitioning, traveling from one parent to the other. Initially, the child may act “fussy,” or start to cry or even say “I don’t want to go.” Often with high conflict parents this is interpreted as a sign of neglect or abuse on the part of the dropping off parent and a sign of alienation on the part of the . On the contrary, this behavior is a typical response of children particularly as the time between homes lengthens in the transfer situation. The way to manage all transitions is to soothe and calm the child. The parent exchanging the child should be pleasant to the other parent. If this is impossible to perform, then the child should be exchanged in a mature spirit with no communication between parents.
When the child reaches school age, it is now possible to be more flexible in scheduling a parenting plan. Two of the most common weekly schedules are 2-2-3, with alternating weekends or 3.5 and 3.5.
There are even greater challenges for each parent to cooperate with each other as the child reaches pre-adolescence. The child’s life becomes more complex as he/she develop more friendships and is more deeply involved in school and afterschool activities.
Adolescence is the most challenging time for parents; whether they are married or divorced. Not only are teenage bodies changing, causing them to be more sensitive to their physical appearance, but adolescents struggle with issues of psychological independence from their parents. They display a roller coaster of emotions as well as a variance between stunningly childish behaviors and responsibly mature behavior. Adolescents also require parents to be more flexible with their scheduling, particularly on weekends. It is also in the best interest of the adolescent for parents to cooperate in their discipline, emphasizing implementing consequences for negative behavior in both households.
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