4 Practical Tips to Successfully Launch Your Parenting PlanNov 26, 2023
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”
– Colossians 3:23
Once you’ve gone through the work of putting together a parenting plan, it’s time to put it into action. This is always really exciting, and it can be tempting to jump in with both feet. However, we have found that it is best to start small and simple, with prayer at the center. Before you put any part of your plan into practice, lay it before the Lord and ask Him to bless it and keep your hearts properly oriented toward Him.
It’s also vital to make sure that your family is aware of the changes that will be happening and the reasons you’ve chosen to implement them. Big adjustments can be hard, so starting small and incrementally can be an excellent tactic. It also helps you see how your family reacts to individual changes. For example, if you suspect you have a food allergy and go on an elimination diet, it’s wise to add foods back into your system one at a time to determine what is causing the problem. If you add in five foods at the same time, you might see a reaction, but you won’t know for sure what’s causing it because there are too many variables! In the same way, making small changes can help you evaluate what is and isn’t working for your family as a unit. If a certain choice isn’t beneficial, you don’t need to get frustrated. Not every change is going to be a good fit for your family, and that’s okay!
We’ve come up with four practices that give families a good headstart into launching their parenting plans. We’re excited to share them with you!
Step 1: Eliminate Excess
The first thing to do is eliminate excess. It’s wise to take a look at all the activities that fill your days, weeks, months, and year. While you don’t need to get rid of everything and start from scratch, try and evaluate if there are any activities in your life that you recognize are not consistent with your family’s vision, values, and guiding principles. It’s great to do this together so that everyone is involved and blind spots are less likely to happen. If something doesn’t align with your vision and values, you can:
- Eliminate the activity completely.
- Minimize the amount of time spent on the activity.
- Modify the activity so it is more consistent with your family values.
If you eliminate something that fills a certain need, work on replacing it with something that is similar, but more consistent with your vision and values.
Be prepared that some extended family members or friends may not understand why you’re eliminating certain things. They may get angry, question you, or think you’re being weird. If you get pushback, remember to keep your long-term goals in mind. Knowing the “why” behind your choices will help you navigate these short-term challenges.
If you want to eliminate multiple activities from your life, we advise you to take it slow. You don’t need to stop everything all at once. Instead, have a plan for how and when you will be making changes and make sure everyone is aware of it. In our family, gymnastics at our local gym was held during our family dinner time. After talking with the instructor, we were able to attend gymnastics at a new afternoon time slot on a different day. This ended up working better for the instructor’s schedule and ours!
Step 2: Establish Routines
We have two blog posts dedicated to the subject of routines. To learn how they can help you launch your parenting plan, please click on the following:
Step 3: Sync Your Schedules
To help ensure that you are incorporating activities that are upholding your values and are in line with your vision, it’s important to have a shared calendar that keeps your family informed of everyone’s plans. This could be a typical paper one that hangs in your kitchen, a shared online calendar, or an app linked to everyone’s devices. Whatever you choose, it just needs to be easily accessible to Dad and Mom, and possibly your kids (depending on their ages).
Put events on the calendar that are the most important to your family first. Think of the well-known “priority jar” illustration: if you fill a jar with sand, you won’t have room for the large rocks or medium-sized gravel pieces. The “big rocks” of your life should be your spiritual and family commitments. As you look at your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule, make sure these are put onto the calendar first. Then, add in your other commitments. Make sure anything added or taken off has been evaluated to ensure that it is consistent with your family’s vision and values. Finally, set aside a few minutes at the beginning of each week to go over your calendar as a family so that everyone knows the expected rhythm of the next several days.
This is how our family handles our calendar. We use one through Google with all of our shared activities on it. Derek and I usually try to mention any additions during the week to each other, and then we go over it as a family once per week. Some of our yearly events are put on the calendar a year or two in advance (birthday trips, conferences, etc.), and this adds excitement as we count down together.
Step 4: Make a Budget
Once your parenting plan is established, figure out the parts that require a financial commitment. We like to determine our expenses for the short-term (1-2 years) intermediate-term (3-7 years), and the long-term (7+ years).
- Short-term possible expenses: elementary tuition, sports/activities, camps, clothing, healthcare.
- Intermediate-term possible expenses: Upper school tuition, braces, cars, any other (longer) debt.
- Long–term possible expenses: College and wedding costs.
Try to get a rough estimate of the cost of these things to the best of your ability, and come up with a savings plan. Ideally, get in touch with a financial planner who can evaluate your monetary situation and give you specially tailored advice. Short-term expenses require quick accessibility, so having cash on hand or in a checking/savings/money market account is a good strategy. For your intermediate plans, explore options that work best for your family: a savings account, a short-term investment account, UTMA or HSA accounts, etc. Long-term expenses are the hardest to predict, but also offer the most time to be faithfully saving. UTMAs, 529s, HSA or HMAs, and good mutual funds can all be solid options.
Once you’ve come up with a budget and plan, review and discuss it regularly with your spouse. It can be wise to include your kids in some of these areas (trips, camps, and activities), so you can model for them the importance of budgeting and faithfully saving. It also provides a great opportunity to remind them that all of our provisions come from God, and that we seek to glorify Him in our financial decisions.
Note: If you happen to have significant debt and/or lack an appropriate emergency fund, we highly encourage you to get those two things in order first.
If you have gone through the process of developing a parenting plan, it is important to put that plan into action. As you have developed your family vision, values, and plan, you’ve been able to determine what is important and a high priority for your family. Some of these tips will help to ensure that you are spending your time and money on high priority items and get rid of the activities that are not helping you move toward your family vision.
Making this transition will be challenging. Some people will not understand or support these changes. We encourage you to have a plan in place to support each other so that you can both stay committed to your plan. Finding other parents who have similar priorities can be a huge blessing and source of support!
- Look at your daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms as a family. Determine which activities are moving you away from your family’s vision and develop a plan to eliminate them.
- A shared calendar will help you to set aside specific times to do the activities that are a high priority for your family.
- Work with a financial professional to help plan and accomplish the monetary goals of your parenting plan.
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