While moving on with life after divorce or separation can be difficult for anyone, there are ways to ease the adjustment for the children. Instead of using child visitation as a chance to get back at your ex-spouse – by making it difficult for him or her to actually see the kids – look at it as an opportunity to ease the transition into new homes and lives.
To make visitation go as smoothly as possible, here are a few tips for newly divorced parents:
- Be flexible with scheduling. Let both your kids and your ex know if anything in your schedule changes, and be sure to provide notice of any vacations well in advance. Also be flexible with your kids – the older they get the more activities they will be involved in, and their plans might conflict with yours. Be willing to adjust based on everyone’s schedules.
- Develop routines. Make visitation a normal part of life. Plan fun activities while your kids are with you, but also provide some routine. If they had to do chores before the divorce, make sure they still have to do some chores when they are with you. If you have more than one child, be sure to spend some one-on-one time with each of your kids.
- Create a space in your new home for your kids. Even if your kids don’t stay with you on a regular basis, or you don’t have a separate bedroom for them – make sure they have an area where they can keep some of their things and that makes them feel welcome. If you’ve moved to a new neighborhood, help your kids meet other children in the neighborhood, so they have friends near their new home.
- Be respectful. Be on time. Do not use visitation as a reward for your children’s good behavior, and don’t withhold visitation as punishment to your ex. The only ones who are punished when you block visitation are your kids. It is also courteous to let your ex know if there are any new people involved in your kids’ lives – such as new babysitters or new romantic interests.
- Keep each other informed. If something changes in your life – your address, phone number, job – keep your ex-spouse updated. You are co-parenting and it is important that you and your ex are on the same page. If there is something important going on with one of the kids – did well on a test, has a soccer match or choir concert coming up – make sure your former spouse knows. Kids might not always remember to share, so keep your ex informed about their lives.
- Lay down consistent rules. Do not let the kids play you against each other by saying, “Well dad let’s me do this,” or “Mom always says yes.” Consistent rules and expectations make it easier for both parents and the children.
- Don’t discuss divorce-related matters in front of the kids. Your children should not be your “go-betweens.” If your ex is behind on child support, don’t discuss it in front of the kids, and don’t fight with your former spouse when you drop off or pick the kids up. The last thing you want the kids to associate with visitation is anger.
- Encourage your children’s relationship with their other parent. Do not make your kids feel like they are in the middle. They shouldn’t feel guilty for spending time with their other parent. Do not talk poorly about your ex in front of your kids. Your former spouse is still their father or mother and you should not place the kids in an awkward spot of having to choose between mom and dad. Also encourage your kids to visit their extended family – to spend time with their grandparents.
Avoid allowing visitation to become a disruption to everyone’s lives which will simply make the divorce harder on everyone. By following some of the strategies above, you can make the visitation process a smooth one for you, your children and your ex.