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Breaking down age-appropriate parenting time

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Divorce

Divorce is profoundly unsettling to a child. Growing up in two households can disrupt their cognitive and emotional development. However, the impact of a parental split varies in severity depending on the child’s age.

Thus, Michigan courts provide a guideline for parents about considering the child’s unique development stage when planning parenting time or how to spend time with the child.

Customizing parenting time based on the child’s age

The state’s recommendations recognize that not all children fit into the common developmental patterns. Some have special needs, such as breastfeeding routines, health concerns and social activities.

Thus, parents can take what resonates with their circumstances.

  • Infants (birth to 12 months): Newborns have short memory spans. So, parents can establish better recall through regular exposure. They can also develop coordinated routines for more comfortable environments for their babies.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): As toddlers gradually open up to the world, they may experience unfamiliar emotions. They may feel torn between wanting to do things on their own and continuing to rely on their parents for support. Consistently positive interactions can reassure toddlers that they have a safe space in the world.
  • Young children (3-5 years): As they start going to school, young children learn more complex ideas. They may have increased curiosity, constantly asking the meaning behind things. As a result, they may grasp if they have a missing parent. Parents can form deeper connections by being more present in significant events.
  • Elementary school age (5-10 years): Elementary-aged children may have more friendships and extracurricular activities. Parents can take note of this to curate their child’s schedule in a way that neither compromises parenting time nor social opportunities.
  • Middle school age (10-14 years): As puberty hits, middle school-aged children may have bodily changes that typically lead to extreme mood swings. Parents can journey with them through these behavioral shifts while respecting their growing desire for independence.
  • High school age (14-18): Despite knowing potentially negative consequences, teens tend to act impulsively. These young adults would want to engage in risky behavior with their peers and distance themselves from parental authority. Thus, parents can work on healthy parent-child relationships without frequent contact. If they insist on their ways, their teenagers may act out to suppress the tensions at home.

There are multiple moving parts to address in parenting time. When parents feel overwhelmed, they may seek refuge from their loved ones and other support systems.

Creating stability for the child’s future

The ideal scenario is for both parties to agree on a parenting time arrangement that fits their child’s unique needs. However, if disputes persist, the court may step in to determine the child’s best interests. When this happens, parents can work with their legal advocates for guidance in stabilizing their child’s future.