How old was your child when you established your parenting plan? If you and your partner split up when your child was young, it’s important to know that the initial plan may not serve you for all time. As children age, their needs and schedules change—as will your own. The time may come when what you originally agreed to is no longer working. And that’s okay. If that happens, you may need to come to a new arrangement.

How a child’s development affects their parenting needs (and your plan)

  • Babies and toddlers are not aware of their surroundings enough to warrant special accommodations. You simply need to meet their basic needs and nurture them with bonding and socialization.
  • Preschoolers are similarly adaptable. They can quickly and easily adjust to extra time with the non-custodial parent if parties were to agree on an exception to the plan.
  • School-aged children have more rigid schedules and are generally involved in additional activities. They may also have play dates with friends and hobbies they want to pursue. Co-parents must consider their schedule and commitments when they establish or revise a parenting plan.
  • Teenagers generally establish a degree of independence and you should, therefore, consult them about their preferences when it comes to parenting time. At this stage, they are more focused on friends and activities than the world inside your home. What they need to know is that you’re here for them.

A parenting plan is not set in stone. Whether you use the court or just agree upon new terms with your co-parent, there may come a time when you need to adjust or amend your plan. This is perfectly natural. It is your job as a parent to support your child as they grow—and that may look different as the years pass.