When you have children, no parent likes the idea of being told that you can only see your children on a set schedule. Your children are probably less thrilled with the situation because it means they have to shuffle back and forth to live between two homes, which may or may not be close by.
Custody and visitation arrangements are tough on everyone, but there are things that you can do to improve the situation so that you look forward to visits rather than allowing anxiety to take hold. Until your children go out into the world on their own, the following “dos and don’ts” can help guide you through visitation.
Do make the time count
It doesn’t matter what you do together when your child comes to visit. He or she only cares about one thing – spending quality time with you. Put your phone away, detach from work, and engage in meaningful interactions that show you respect the time you have with your child. Depending upon your child’s age, he or she may have been given a say in whether he or she wants to see you. When your kids are young, it’s easy to get them to pay attention to you simply by being in the room. If your children are getting older, you are likely competing with technology and their friends, and they may feel like they are being forced to spend time with you. Make an effort to share their interests to find common ground on which to connect with them.
Don’t allow your ex to overshadow your time with your children
Don’t discuss your divorce with your child, or allow your negative feelings about the other parent to show through your behavior or words. Your children are not on the same emotional level as your friends, yet many times they are placed squarely in the middle of your conflict with their other parent. Maybe you share disagreements you have had with your former spouse, ask for their opinion, have them play messenger, or even use them to deliver their own child support check. All of these actions are ways of showing your children that you have been hurt by your former spouse – their mother or father whom they love – and you are indirectly asking them to choose sides.
Do make picks ups and drop offs stress-free
If you and your child’s other parent are unable to communicate with each other civilly, much less be within speaking distance without hatred radiating from the both of you, your children will pick up on the tension. This could very well set a negative tone for the duration of your visitation.
It could be more beneficial to you, your children, and their other parent, to see if you can come to a mutual agreement to use a third party who you both trust to transport your children to and from visitations. This will help to avoid further potential conflicts that will not only be harmful to your children, but could cost you and your former spouse another visit to court, or even a change in custody or visitation.
Don’t try to “one up” your ex
Whether you are the custodial parent or the parent with visitation, your job is to ensure that your children have what they need to be healthy, safe and secure. It can be tempting to try to buy your children’s affection and love with toys, electronics, trips, and other activities.
All this will do is show your kids that their parents can be bribed into “winning” their time and affection, and it is harmful to everyone. Instead of trying to compete with your ex for the title of Best Parent, spend time truly engaging with your kids. Let them know they are loved and wanted. That could mean learning to play a video game, or helping with homework, or just spending time talking to each other. It might also mean allowing your children to be angry, frustrated, and sad, and helping them recognize and deal with those emotions.
Divorce is never easy, but neither is parenting. When you are hurt and angry, putting your children’s needs before your own can get lost in the waves of emotion you are going through. Using the tools above will help you focus on what is most important.
If you have questions or concerns about child custody and parenting schedules, seek the experienced advice of a Charlotte family law attorney. The compassionate legal team at Epperson Law Group, PLLC understands the emotional upheaval that comes with child custody determinations and can help guide you to making the right decisions for you and your children. To meet with one of our custody and visitation attorneys, reach out through our contact form, or call our Charlotte office at 704-321-0031 to schedule a consultation.