This article was contributed by:
Erika Englund – Cooperative Divorce Attorney-Mediator
How to Get More Than 50% Parenting Time
Many parents will say that the worst part of divorce is “losing” their children. Missing even a minute of time with their children makes parents feel panicked, depressed, or guilty. Even parents who share equal parenting time can feel like they are missing out on part of their children’s lives. Worse than this, the children may be missing their parent. However, there are four simple ways that parents can become more involved in their child’s life, bond with their child more, and spend extra time together, all without taking a moment away from the other parent. Here are 4 strategies for “50/50 Plus Parenting”:
Here are four ways to have 50/50 plus parenting time:
1. Extracurricular. Attend your child’s extracurricular events even when it is not your parenting day. Even better: offer to be a coach, a team parent, scout leader or a carpool driver. This will allow you to engage with your child with more frequency and bond over a shared activity. Always get your co-parent’s approval before you sign your child up for any activity. If they resist, share this 50/50 plus method to show them how both parents and the child will benefit. Whether your child is into theater, debate, drum lessons or field hockey, enjoying their extracurricular activities alongside them gives you more parenting time, and creates special bonding opportunities.
2. Educational. School provides additional opportunities to engage with your child. For younger children, you can volunteer to work in the classroom, go on field trips, or help out at school carnivals and events. Older children may need parents to assist with drop off and pick up field trips, and school dances. After school clubs, arts and athletics, and special events like graduation, all usually provide parent-volunteer opportunities. In addition to spending more time with your child, you will be doing it in their world, which will help you get to know them better.
3. Communication. Single parents often feel that they miss out on their child’s small moments — those funny little things that a child says, losing a tooth, or hitting a new milestone. At the same time, parents are wistful that they no longer have a partner to share these moments with. There is an easy solution that solves both problems — share these moments.
When your child shares a story about school, or your baby rolls over for the first time, or your teenager experiences their first crush, take a picture and text your co-parent. This gives you the opportunity to share, to strengthen communication, to help your co-parent and child bond, and to help your co-parent feel that they’re not missing anything. Even if your co-parent does not similarly share with you, it can feel great to reach out and share these small moments with them. Flipping back through the photos provides a nostalgic record of your child’s special moments. You can even print doubles of all the photos, and provide an album for each house.
If your child is old enough to enjoy communicating with you, ditch phone calls for something more interactive like Marco Polo, an app that allows you to leave each other private video messages, or a family Instagram page. Foster communication and connection by asking questions like, “What was the best and worst part of your day?” or “What was the funniest thing that happened to you today?” Some parents create a tiny book club, reading the same book as their child, and meeting virtually after every chapter to discuss. Any of these techniques will help you feel more involved in your child’s everyday life, as well as foster your child’s continued attachment with you as they grow through different stages of life.
4. Co-parenting. Many parents who believe that they are co-parenting are actually parallel parenting — meaning, communicating only as necessary, and raising the child in two separate and distinct homes.
True co-parenting is working together as a team to raise your child with a unified front despite being in separate houses. Co-parents communicate on daily schedules, discipline, diet, and parenting philosophy. Co-parents work together to decide when a child will have a cell phone, a driver’s license, a first job. As a co-parent, you are truly involved in all of the aspects of your child’s life. Your child knows that both parents are fully involved, and this provides a great sense of security for them. It mitigates the loss they may feel when one parent is away and eases transition time between homes. More and more co-parents are also having family dinners, celebrating holidays together, even vacationing as a family.
When co-parents can spend time together, they are each getting more than 50% parenting. The children are getting more than 50% of each parent. And the family continues to bond and build new memories.
For healthy parents, co-parenting is the single best thing they can do for their children and for each other. If the conflict is interfering with your ability to co-parent, try online co-parenting courses, meeting together with a co-parenting counselor, and reducing conflict around financial matters by using SupportPay.
Whatever your parenting time, there are ways that you can expand it without intruding on the other parent’s time. These opportunities, be they extracurricular, educational, communication or co-parenting, not only provide more time and engagement for parent and child, but also strengthen the bond. Now that you know four ways to create 50/50 plus parenting, go make some memories!
Erika Anne Englund, Cooperative Divorce Attorney-Mediator
Creating a better divorce for better people since 2008