Parents need to show a united front for their children during the divorce, but also/especially in the years that follow the divorce, so that children will feel confident and comfortable during the transition.
Below are tips to help your children have happy and healthy experiences when spending time with either parent:
-Stay positive. Be upbeat when discussing their upcoming visit. Don’t allow your differences with your former spouse overshadow your children’s plans. Knowing a bit about some activities the children will be doing with the other parent is also helpful in smoothing the transition, so you can talk about them together beforehand and help the children get excited about them.
-Be prompt. Being on time and being “there” with your children and in the moment reinforces the fact that you value these visits. Children need to feel that they are important to you, so focus on them when you are together.
-No arguing. Arguing in front of the children is very upsetting to them, especially at drop-off/pickup time. Visitation (parenting access time) is a time to focus on the children, so it is necessary for both parents to do whatever is required to make the drop-off/pick up transition as pleasant as possible. Dealing with your differences at a separate time will help make the process run more smoothly for everyone. Set up meetings to discuss issues with your former spouse separately from the children or, if necessary, save your adult conversations for sessions with a mediator.
-Calendar. Both homes should have a calendar specifically for the children. Together with you, the children can mark the days: weekday dinners, overnights, and vacation visits, as well as social events and school and extracurricular activities to take place on specific dates/times. This makes a potentially confusing schedule more predictable and easier to discuss and manage with young children. If you and your co-parent are unable to sync these calendars, or work cooperatively to ensure each household has all necessary information, utilizing a service like Our Family Wizard is a great tool – there’s a yearly membership fee of $99. This service also has an email system that allows you to communicate with your co-parent in a manner that archives communications as they come in or are responded to (which can help bolster your case when motions are filed post judgment).
–Encourage comfort items. Have the children bring familiar items from home. This will help with the transition between houses. Having them bring a beloved stuffed animal, a special blanket, or a favorite book can be soothing to them. For older children, keeping a journal might be helpful.
–Missing the other parent is ok. Make sure the children know it’s okay to miss the other parent. It may help to have children draw a picture for the absent parent to present to them at their next visit, or send a text/email, or Facetime or Skype with them, or place a telephone call (if age appropriate). Encourage your children to reach out to either parent whenever they need to. It is important for you to show them that it’s okay to want to communicate with the other parent. In this way you will be demonstrating your effort in fostering a positive relationship between parent and child, and your willingness to do what is best for your children.