"Visitation"

How fun would it to be to pack a bag and move temporarily into a different household every two weeks or so, and to have two people who really don’t like each other transport you back and forth? It’s frustrating how the kids’ viewpoint is overlooked in so much discussion about visitation, and even the word “visitation” is insulting to the kids’ relationship with the parent with whom they are spending time that weekend. Do we really believe kids shift easily from living full-time with both parents to blithely “visiting” the parent they don’t live with now?

I could find article upon article with advice for when the kids don’t want to go to “visitation”, but what about when they are not ready for that time to end? For some reason this isn’t as popular to talk about.

Article Alley offers some tips for parents to make “visitation” easier for the kids:

* 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 to”. 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.

* Avoid discussing any sensitive topics during the pick-up or drop-off of the kids. Remember that this is a tough time for the children, and parent conflict or emotional tension will just make it worse.

* 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.

* Avoid using the term “visitation” or “access” with your children. This is a court term, not a child-friendly phrase.

Again, the writer has the ever-present assumption that the kids don’t want to spend time with the non-custodial parent, which I find odd, but I was relieved to see the suggestion about keeping items at both houses so the kids feel like they have homes, not guest rooms. Gary and I enjoy shopping for the kids’ clothes together, and the kids enjoy having a closet and dresser full of their own personal items when they are with us, instead of tearing through a suitcase to get something. A suitcase is a reminder that their time together will be abruptly cut short within a day or two, while pulling something from a dresser or closet feels more permanent, more home-y, more comforting that they will be back.

Divorce Mag also offers the suggestion to keep basic items at both households, to ease the awkwardness of living from a suitcase at one home. The article also suggests:

* Don’t shoehorn your child from one parent’s car to the other’s. Spend a few minutes somewhere before popping him or her back in a car.

* Keep your thoughts or complaints about the other parent under wraps. Don’t use transition time to have a discussion.

* Be polite and friendly to the other parent. Smile!

* (For custodial parents, obviously): When the court gave you custody of your child, the judge also gave you the responsibility for making sure your child continued to have the other parent in his or her life. …If you think that you “win” by keeping your child home, you’re mistaken. You’re effectively denying your child his or her right to have two parents that love and care for him or her — through good times and bad times.

To me, feeling like you “win” about anything in such a situation is childish and places the focus on you, not the kids…and probably a really good sign that you need to shift your priorities and grow up a bit. Kids certainly deserve nothing less.

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About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in custody, divorce, kids, parenting, visitation. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to "Visitation"

  1. OMG, I had commented this whole book of a comment and then by accident I closed the window! ARGH!Now I do not remember exactly what I wrote. But I will try again. 🙂The best advice I can give as a child of divorce is no matter what do not talk bad about each other in front of the kids and ask the rest of the family to do the same. Live by the saying “if you have nothing good to say, do not say anything at all.”Also, try to be as honest as possible. They are stronger then you think. Our parents used to try and hide stuff from us but we used to hear the arguments and since we were never told anything as a form of “protection” we used to make up stuff that was a lot worse. I ended become an insomniac cause I was scared to sleep thinking that one day dad would pick up and go away.We used to have to travel over seas to whatever country our mother was living every school vacation/holiday. We loved it cause we got to see and experiance such great stuff. We always thought of it as an adventure because that is what my parents always called it. 🙂and lastly, LOVE. Saying it, Showing it, even when they are saying “eeewwww” or at the moment they do not like you. They hear it and they love you no matter what. 🙂

  2. Smirking Cat says:

    I agree. There are a lot of things I could say that don’t do anything but express my aggravation and frustration, and the kids don’t need to hear that. I also agree with being honest, and certainly with showing them love. But the best way to show the kids love is to put them first.

  3. Crys says:

    I really agree with a lot of this, and am relieved to see that I’ve been doing a good majority of this already. I also see room for improvement, but am glad to see that it’s nothing too drastic and selfish. If anything, coming into the middle of a divorce has opened my eyes to my actions and feelings more than I ever thought was possible. The part about keeping basic supplies at both houses was really great to see. The boys were constantly carrying pillows and toothbrushes between Jane’s house and ours when I first came. I finally got tired of it after Jane forgot to send their pillows home and had my fiance tell her that she needed to get supplies for them at her house. Even if they don’t use them as often, I think it gives them a sense that her home is open and theirs too. I know I would hate being in that situation of being trucked between two places.

  4. How funny that you would post this now. Yesterday at our meeting with the Parenting Coordinator, the ex-wife had the nerve to say, “Well, you pick your battles, and I won the big one, so…haha!” She was referring to the fact that she retained physical custody of the kids (for now), conveniently forgetting that she lost sole legal custody, final decision-making power (their decision-making power is equal now), and we are the first case in our county to be assigned a “Parenting Coordinator” to act as an arbitrator for us. I think it’s quite obvious that she needs to re-think her priorities here- it’s not a “win” or “lose” situation. The kids aren’t belongings or possessions, they’re not won or lost, or mine or yours. They’re little people with futures and personalities, and it’s our responsibility to raise them as such.

  5. Smirking Cat says:

    How do kids stop being people to people like her? Were they EVER people to people like her?

  6. Just Me :) says:

    The parents that could benefit most from this info are the ones that never will. They see the children as pawns rather than people. Those of us that head this advice and welcome it for all its value are the ones that work our butts off to try to maintain the best possible environment are the ones that beat ourselves up the one time we slip or do something we think may have the most minuet chance of harming the children.

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