Parenting Time Schedules – The Endless Tetris Game

parenting time schedules

The dreaded “S’ word.


I work with many clients to effectively curate parenting time schedules particularly with divorced and separated parents and show them how best to manage it all. It can be overwhelming and frustrating at times, ensuring that all the pieces are fitting together, kids have all they need at each house, the pickups, the drop-offs, and not to mention the most important thing of all, ensuring that the kids are in safe loving home environments on both sides.

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Co-parenting communication however is critical to success.

Creating a Parenting Schedule

There are many different ways to split up the schedule depending on the age and stage of the child, and really what is truly in their best interest.  It’s important to do a very clear and honest analysis of your situations as parents, your careers, living situations, kids’ activities and again, what is ultimately in the kid’s best interests.

Kids Come First in Parenting Scheulde

One thing came to mind a lot this week as I was helping clients to navigate these murky waters. It is very important to remember, that kids come first. This became very apparent when I was working with a client, whose co-parent was hell-bent on “evening out the schedule” (insert eyeball emoji here).  Who is this benefitting?  Is this taking the kids into consideration?  Definitely not. It was scorekeeping and definitely not what is in the best interest of the kids and their well-being.

Equal Time is not Always what is best for the Children

Sure, parents want equal time. That makes sense. Kids in most healthy situations just want to spend time with both parents as much as possible.  But, when the kids as human beings are treated like objects being tossed back and forth so the schedule is “even”, the only people that lose out, are the kids.

An Example of What NOT to do!

I mean. Let’s take Christmas Eve and Day for example.  I recognize not everyone celebrates this holiday but it’s a great example.

This schedule looked like this –

Christmas Eve
  • 10am Breakfast with Dad,
  • back for 12:30pm lunch with Mom,
  • 4pm pick up for dinner with Dad
  • back to Mom’s at 9pm to sleep. 
Christmas Day
  • Morning present opening with Mom
  • 10am pick up by Dad for lunch
  • 4pm drop off for dinner at Mom’s with her extended family. 

That is not fun nor fair to the kids or anyone for that matter. 

Parents need to make it easy for the kids to settle in where they are for that portion of the holiday.  The other parent can pop by for hugs if that’s appropriate, or have a FaceTime.

Let the kids be.

Ping ponging them back and forth is destabilizing and often the kids just end up wanting it all over so they can go back to enjoying their time off school, their holiday time and participating in the much-needed downtime that kids these days are so often lacking.

Parenting Time Schedules Heidi Dinning

Tips for a Successful Parenting Time Schedule

As you build your schedule and start to take holidays into consideration, here are some helpful things to remember:

Put Your Own Stuff Aside

I’ll use Christmas as an example again. As much as you are dreading being alone on Christmas morning, do not impose any guilt on your kids. Find a new tradition with family or friends of your own, that you can spend the time with. 

If you don’t have family or friends in town, perhaps think about volunteering at a local charity and channel that energy into putting good into the world.

Avoid Ping-Ponging the Kids

Try to avoid ping-ponging the kids back and forth for family events as much as possible.  Kids need downtime. They need to settle into the home they are at for that portion of the holiday. Thank goodness for technology that allows for FaceTime and texting, so you stay connected to your kiddos even when they aren’t with you.  Give them permission to relax and enjoy.

Set up Your Kids for Success

Set your kids up for success. Ensure the schedule is working for them as individuals. Is it smooth for them? Is it causing them stress or anxiety in any way?  Stay curious and ensure it is working for them.

Perhaps the 7:00pm FaceTime with the other parent conflicts with an activity. Ensure you coordinate and change that with your co-parent so your child doesn’t feel the stress or guilt of missing the FaceTime.

Schedules Need to Evolve

Schedules should and will evolve. Teens may want to go see Mom or Dad during your parenting time, and that’s ok. They can start to have a voice in how they want to run their days and weeks with each parent.  Perhaps they need an extra night at Dad’s once in a while or Moms for specific activities. Work with your co-parent and be open to that.  

Remember, the kids did not ask for this so ensure you create a parenting schedule that is as easy on them as possible.

Creating a parenting plan and a schedule that works for both parents and the child is going to so beneficial for you, the other parent and your child’s life.  

Parenting Time Schedules Heidi Dinning (1)

FAQ Section

What is a Typical Child Visitation Schedule?

Everyone’s schedule will look a little different, and be VERY dependant on your agreement, your co-parenting communication style and your work schedule. However, there are some common things you can implement.

What is the most common child custody arrangement?

The most common are sole custody, joint custody, and primary physical custody. Legal custody is also available. Grandparent and visitation custody is another a type of enforceable child custody agreement.

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