How Parents Can Enhance Their Children's Adjustment During and After Parental Divorce (page 3)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Apr 21, 2014

Develop a parenting plan

The way to parent most effectively is to have a plan! The purpose of a parenting plan is to encourage creative, individualized, and clear arrangements, as well as to facilitate cooperative parenting. Having a plan can make it easier for you and your ex-spouse to work together as parents and reduce the amount of conflict between you.

Joan McWilliams, an attorney and mediator in Colorado, points out that a parenting plan contains at least three sections:

  1. Decision Making How will you make decisions about health care, education, and religion for your child?
  2. Visitation How will your child spend time with each parent?
  3. Dispute Resolution What happens if you and your ex-spouse do not agree?

Following are some recommendations for developing a parenting plan:

  • Develop a plan with your ex-spouse as soon as possible. A professional mediator can often help the two of you develop a plan if you are having a hard time on your own.
  • Emphasize with your ex-spouse that the goal of a parenting plan is to clarify parenting issues, avoid conflict, and help your child. The earlier in the divorce process this can be accomplished, the less conflict there will be and the better your child will adjust.
  • Set a time with your ex-spouse to reevaluate the parenting plan as it will need to be modified at times.

Concluding comments

The best interest of your child should always be your priority during and after divorce.

"A hundred years from now it will not matter what sort of house I lived in, what my bank account was, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of my child." (Author Unknown)

About the Authors

Rex Forehand, Ph.D., is Regents Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Institute for Behavioral Research at the University of Georgia. Dr. Forehand, a child clinical psychologist, has devoted more than thirty years to studying behavior problems of children and developing strategies for parents to use to change those problems. His research and applied clinical programs have been published in more than 300 professional journal articles and book chapters. His book Helping the Noncompliant Child (coauthored by Robert J. McMahon) has received national acclaim for its delineation of a proven clinical intervention program for therapists to use with parents of children with behavior problems. He is also the coauthor Making Divorce Easier on Your Child: 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust (McGraw-Hill, 2002), upon which this article is based.

Nicholas Long, Ph.D., is a Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Psychology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital. He is also Director of the Center for Effective Parenting. He is coauthor of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child (with Rex Forehand), which has received international acclaim for providing parents with a proven program for changing child behavior. Dr. Long, who has published extensively in the areas of divorce and practical approaches to parenting, has developed strategies to help parents manage common behavior problems of your children and for parents who are going through stressful times, such as divorce. He is also the coauthor Making Divorce Easier on Your Child: 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust (McGraw-Hill, 2002), upon which this article is based.

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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