The Child-Up Parenting Plan
The “Child-Up Parenting Plan”
Facilitating child development post-separation…
By Gary Direnfeld, MSW
Meaningful parental involvement provides for a lifelong relationship with
children. For separated or divorced parents this can be achieved by a dynamic
“child-up parenting plan” approach.
The “child-up parenting plan” approach assumes children need and want the best
relationship possible with both parents and that the involvement of both parents
is important to the emotional health of children now and for their future.
Essential to achieving a plan then is an understanding of the developmental
needs of children from current age to when they leave home.
Parents may require education on their children’s needs and how these needs
change as they grow. Needs may be related to education, religion, health,
extra-curricular activities, residence and daily care. The child-up approach
takes all these into account and then builds upon the resources, availability
and desires of each parent to meet these needs over time. If either parent is
lacking in knowledge, skill or ability, the plan may also include counseling or
parenting classes. The basic belief is that parents will do whatever is
necessary to best meet their children’s needs and will undertake activities to
prepare themselves if necessary.
Parents will have to adapt to different stages according to their children’s
development. The parenting plan must therefore be dynamic, as it will need to
change with time.
With infant children, one parent may be more relied upon to provide day-to-day
care. However, the other parent should be provided opportunity to bond and form
attachments through frequent visits. As children become toddlers, pre-schoolers
and then school aged, they are increasingly exposed to the world. So rather than
an arbitrary rule that provides a mid week visit, parents can negotiate and
share responsibilities for transportation or swimming lessons or after-school
activities. Sharing responsibilities pragmatically changes parents’ duration,
frequency, time, activity and exposure to their children in a way that is
In other words, parental time with children is as much task-specific as
time-directed. As the demands of school increase, one parent may provide
assistance with math homework, while the other with English. The key is to
develop the parenting plan for meaningful, goal directed and structured activity
aimed towards meeting the needs of children at particular ages. Close
parent-child relationships form through positive involvement with typical daily
Other benefits of sharing parental responsibilities through a “child-up
parenting plan” is the reduced risk of one parent taking on the role of the
disciplinarian while the other parent develops a kind of fantasyland
relationship. Children benefit from access to both parents according to their
needs and parental abilities. Further, it distributes the demands placed upon
parents and can reduce their stress.
Ongoing parental involvement throughout childhood will determine how well
children are able to accept parental guidance and direction come adolescence.
This will be vital and protective at this time in their lives. While many people
think that peer pressure has more influence on teen behavior, this is only true
for teens who have tenuous parental relationships. Parents who have long
established, good and significant relationship with their children can actually
have more influence on them during adolescence than their teen peers.
Involvement now will determine relationships and well-being later. If a
“child-up parenting plan” is developed and followed, both parents can be dancing
at their children’s wedding and then taking turns babysitting grandchildren!
(This approach will work best with parents who are able to freely negotiate.)
Gary Direnfeld, MSW
Gary Direnfeld is a child-behavior expert, social worker, and author of Raising
Kids Without Raising Cane (Secrets of the Trade, 1992). His presentations
provide insights on issues ranging from child behavior management and
development; to family life; to socially responsible business development.
Courts in Ontario consider Gary an expert on matters pertaining to child
development, custody and access and social work.
Buy the book
To order Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, send a check or
money order in the amount of $12.00 to:
Interaction Consultants, 20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, Ontario, L9H 6R5.
Parents of new teen drivers are encouraged to check out this teen safe driving
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