A huge challenge in formulating a parenting plan is often the thought of being away from your children for any extended period of time, for the celebration of a holiday, or to miss a vacation they might take with their other parent.

Most parents say helplessly, “Nothing about any of this feels right. I didn’t have children to be away from them.” You are right; when you and your coParent created family, most envisioned a life-long relationship and enduring family. When separation/divorce occurs all those dreams, imaginings, and values have to realign in order for a constructive future to take hold. This may take time—and in time, acceptance replaces helplessness.

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You are both always 100 percent parents, sharing your children on a duty-parent schedule, a residential schedule where they will reside with one or the other of you for certain periods of time. Soon a new rhythm, a new normal will replace this enormous sense of disruption. But even as that happens, most two-home parents feel a river of grief underneath their newly established lives, a healthy regret that they were unable to raise a family together in one home.

This doesn’t mean you should stay in an unhealthy marriage or that you’re doing anything wrong. This simply acknowledges that this is not what you had hoped for when you had a child together. Seek help if you’re struggling with harsh judgments about your coParent’s ability to parent or fear that your children are not safe when they’re away from you.  Seek help too, if you’re plagued by interfering guilt, possessiveness, and anxiety when separated from your children.

Discerning safety concerns from upset emotions related to hurt and anger over your marriage is important for your parenting planning process. Your kiddo’s healthy divorce adjustment depends on your healthy divorce adjustment—please get the support and guidance you need. There are many times that being a good parent is ensuring that your children have important experiences and meaningful relationships that don’t directly include you. Remember: Always in each other’s heart, not always together.

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Karen Bonnell’s book THE PARENTING PLAN HANDBOOK.


About Karen Bonnell

Karen has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress and change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Karen has been Board certified and licensed as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner since 1982. She served on the faculty of University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University & Seattle Pacific University before beginning full-time private practice in 1984. She continues to be a provider of Professional Continuing Education to both health care and legal professionals.

Karen served on the Board of King County Collaborative Law and Collaborative Professionals of Washington. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Her work is found through Unhooked Books: https://www.unhookedmedia.com/#home.