Divorce parenting plans and children’s needs during
ages 9 to 12

Children in this age group are beginning to concentrate on peers and are developing gender identity. They have developed an ability to think and reason, so they will make judgments about who is right and who is wrong and exhibit strong anger, taking sides with one parent and blaming the other for the divorce.

Self esteem and identity issues can result from alienation or abandonment by one of the parents. The child needs strong and significant contact and involvement with both parents: the same sex parent for role identity and the opposite sex parent for socialization.

Conflicts between the parents can have lasting detrimental effects, loss of self-esteem and poor sense of identity. During the parents’ divorce, children of this age also need to be able to love both parents, without guilt, shame, blame, or being drawn into a loyalty conflict. One parent can cause great harm in criticizing or blaming the other parent rather than allowing the child freedom for contact and emotional attachment to both parents, whether or not the parent believes the other parent deserves to have that contact or emotional attachment.

As with both younger and older children, the school should be made aware of the divorce. The child may have physical complaints that interfere with school attendance and the divorce may cause peer and school difficulties.

Parenting plans should consider that school-age children are in a period of transition and self-discovery, friends become more important in their life, developing values becoming tested in school and home environment, with older school-age children see-sawing between dependence and independence. School can be used for smooth transitions between homes and periods of time in each home where the child is separated from the other parent can begin to extend to up to five days, depending on the maturity and needs of the child and the child’s success with such separation, but with both parents involved with school and related requirements.

Caretaking arrangements should continue to be consistent, stable, and predictable for the school-age child.

Where there is high conflict or impairments, use of a therapist mediator will be of greater assistance.