Making Visitation Easier For The Kids
Switching between Mom's house and Dad's house can be difficult and stressful for children, but the manner that parents approach transition times can have a big impact on how children react. It is important for parents to realize that children have worries, concerns, hopes and fears about the divorce or separation, and times of visitation can often bring a lot of those concerns to the surface, especially if there is conflict between parents. Research very clearly shows that the amount of conflict that children are exposed to before, during and after the divorce determines how well children will adjust to the divorce. If the conflict continues or gets worse during visitation times, or any other time, children are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. Children that see parents being civil and respectful of each other are more likely to feel loved, secure and safe and are less likely to have ongoing emotional or behavioral problems. There are some strategies that parents can use to make visitation easier for children. Remember that the more strategies you use, the more beneficial it will be to your children.
1. Speak positively about the other parent and the time that children will spend with the other parent. For example " I know that you are going to have a great weekend with your Dad because he has special plans", is much more positive than "I know you don't want to go, but the court papers say you have too". In the first sample the child is clearly hearing that you know Dad is a fun person to be with, and has spent some time planning a great weekend.
2. Have the child ready to go on time, and be on time to pick-up the child or children. If you need the children to have a particular item, make sure you tell the other parent so they can be ready, rather than scrambling around at the last minute.
3. Avoid discussing any sensitive topics during the pick-up or drop-off of the kids. Make it short and positive, and don't be tempted to discuss problems or concerns at this time. Remember that this is a tough time for the children, and parent conflict or emotional tension will just make it worse.
4. Keep basic supplies at both houses. Avoid having to pack a suitcase for the children, rather have socks, underwear, pj's, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, brushes and other personal items at both houses. This helps children understand that they have two homes, not just one home and a place to visit.
5. Avoid using the term "visitation" or "access" with your children. This is a court term, not a child-friendly phrase. Try saying "This is your weekend to spend time with Mom" rather than "This is Mom's visitation time".
6. Let the children know that they can call you to say goodnight or just to talk. Avoid calling over to the other parent's house as this can be seen as a sign of distrust. Rather allow the kids to call you, or perhaps arrange a time that you can phone over to say goodnight if the children are too young to use the phone. Children love to spend time with both parents, and making visitation easier on the kids is one way that parents can begin to work together in their role as coparents to the children.
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