Going from one parent’s house to another and back again can take its toll on children. Here are some suggestions to make this easier for the children:
1. Age is probably the biggest factor to consider when dealing with visitation. For younger children, it may be more difficult to spend time away from their primary residence. Visitation for infants and toddlers generally involves shorter, frequent visits. Older children can do better with longer access.
2. Consistency in visitation is extremely important. Children need a stable routine so they feel safe and know what to expect. If change becomes necessary due to illness or other reasons, the parents should consult with each other to arrange an alternative. This conversation need not include the children.
3. Parents should always be on time for visitation. If there is a problem with the time, arrangements should be made as soon as possible so the children do not feel anxious about the parent not arriving as scheduled.
4. Parents need to make sure children are packed and ready for access on time. Clean clothes for the length of the visit, shoes, hats, gloves, etc., should all be ready so there are no last-minute hassles. Letting the kids pick out a special suitcase (or duffel bag, book bag, etc.) for their visits will make this a special time for them.
5. Parents should make sure children are not hungry or over-tired when it’s time for drop off or pick up. Happy, well-fed and rested children can deal with the transition much better.
6. Allowing the children to bring their stuffed animals, blankets, special toys, etc., will make them feel more comfortable during visitation.
7. Don’t hold any conversations about child support, personal problems, or other subjects that may create tension in front of the kids. The communication at the time of drop off and pick up should always be cordial and non-threatening. This should be a happy time for the children. Any problems between the parents should be discussed at a time when the children are not present. Children can sense hostility between parents and will react to it.
8. Don’t tell your children how much you will miss them. This causes unnecessary stress on the children if they see you unhappy over their visits.
9. Don’t interrogate your children when they return to your home. Let them know they can talk to you about the visit, but let them tell you the things they want to, without prying. You want them to talk to you. Let them know by your actions that they can expect a neutral response. This will let them know they have not said anything wrong.
10. Visitation is not about you, but what is best for your children. Keep in mind that children love their other parent, even if you don’t. Do not talk negatively about the other parent or what goes on at their home.
11. Allow children to call the other parent when they request it. That does not mean you need to allow the child to call the other parent just because they are upset with you. Tell the child they can call their other parent when they settle down. Children should know they have access to both parents at any time.
12. Children should understand that visitation is something that you have set up for them and for their benefit. The parents make the decisions regarding it. The children can express their ideas and opinions regarding access, but the parents make the final decision.
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