Navigating joint custody can be hard on both the children and the parents. These tips can help create a visitation schedule that works for everyone.

While joint custody is often the most ideal arrangement after a divorce, it can be very difficult for both the parents and the children to manage. Giving lots of thought and attention to what’s best for the child is important to ensuring that transitions are seamless and relaxed.

Joint legal custody means that both parents can make important decisions about a child’s life, including their education and medical care. Joint physical custody means that the child will spend an equal amount of time living with each of the parents.

Whatever the visitation arrangement is, keep these dos and don’ts in mind when creating a schedule that will enrich the child’s life without adding a lot of stress and confusion.

Don’t:

Change the schedule frequently or out of the blue

Joint custody scheduling is meant to make the home transitions part of a routine. Children need a consistent structure to feel settled and secure. When confronted with lots of change, kids can easily become stressed out and fearful.

This means that if any scheduling changes are to be made to current arrangements, it’s important to communicate the changes and why they’re being made to the child or children. Then, make sure the transition takes place gradually, so the child has time to adapt.

Interfere with the child’s activities

It’s important to continue any commitments or activities that your child has going on during a divorce. This means that visitation schedules will need to factor in these activities so that he or she doesn’t miss a practice or class and become stressed out.

It may also help with consistency if the same parent picks him or her up from certain after-school activities each week. This can promote bonding opportunities with each parent for separate activities in the child’s life.

Bad mouth the other parent

Nothing is more stressful for a kid than hearing each parent bad mouth the other one when they’re not around. This is incredibly confusing for children, as they love both parents and shouldn’t have to be placed in the middle of any drama or conflict.

Communication surrounding visitation can be tense, and emotions can run high. The goal, however, is to not exhibit feelings of blame or anger in front of children. While a divorce can be filled with bitterness and regret, keep those feelings to yourself when managing joint custody.

Do

Ask the child how they feel

Often, divorced parents think they need to keep everything private from the kids, including the visitation schedule. To a certain degree and depending on the child’s age, it may be a good strategy to actually include him or her in planning.

Ask them how they feel about the current schedule or what they would like better. This also provides them a chance to voice any thoughts or feelings about the divorce in general and gives them some control in a changing environment.

Schedules should be adapted and updated as the child ages, so continue to involve him or her in the process along the way.

Limit transitions as much as possible

Instead of having the child transition from home to home every other day, it may be easier on them to stay longer periods with each parent; for instance, staying a week with dad and a week with mom. Too many transitions throughout the week could be chaotic and stressful, and they may lose their sense of home.

During these longer periods, perhaps the other parent could visit the home for dinner or take the child to practice after school for shorter visits so that the two can still interact. For younger children, more frequent interactions with each parent, at least once a week, may be desirable, according to the Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center.

Make each home feel like home

Part of setting up a successful routine for children is making sure both homes feel like home to them. This can be challenging if one parent moved out of a home when the divorce took place, making that primary home feel more comfortable. But at each home, the child should have their own space where they can make it theirs and relax. This will help them to feel comfortable and more certain about what to expect with each parent.

Find a successful way to communicate

While a divorced couple may never want to speak to each other again, the fact is, it’s a must to be able to coordinate and get along in a joint custody arrangement. Finding a communication method that works for both parties is an effective way to stay on the same page. This includes calendar syncing, emailing, organizing finances, and more.

The Family Plan App is the perfect solution for divorced parents who are trying to work out scheduling and coordinate co-parenting. The app can track compliance records, expense management, communication logs via email or text, and court records, and it includes an easy-to-use calendar. Family Plan aims to make the entire co-parenting experience easier after a divorce.