From the child’s perspective, meaningful is who takes them to sports practice at 5:30 in the morning; who helps them with their math; who corrects them when they are out of line; who acts with good moral character.
For separated parents, starting with the needs of the child, each parent can assume responsibilities, sometimes based upon past patterns and at other times based upon newly negotiated responsibilities.
The issue is determining how to support the child according to the child’s developmental needs and activities. This won’t always make for a week clearly defined by alternate weekends and mid week visits.
Rather it can be a week determined by soccer, swimming, ballet and homework. This will take some flexibility.
In the eyes of the child, the parent’s involvement will be meaningful as opposed to conflict laden. Worrying less about 50/50 and more about the child’s needs, the parents may find that the actual time varies from week to week or month to month, sometimes favoring one parent, then the other. The child’s experience is parents who are mutually available when necessary.
The child doesn’t have to miss an event because they are with one parent or the other. Extra-curricular activities are not used as weapons to exclude either parent but as a structure to organize each parent’s time with the child.
Parent and child can concentrate on enjoying each other’s company. This way both parents can experience a 100% meaningful relationship with the child. Joint custody is about parents sharing responsibilities and decision-making authority.
The actual relationship with the children will be more meaningful based more upon the nature, quality and purpose of time together rather than equal time spent. Work it out accordingly and the children will thrive.About the author:Need help structuring a parenting plan? Find the Parenting Plan Worksheet on this page: www.yoursocialworker.com/sep-dev.htm
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
page 2 of 2