Divorce, as well as visitation after divorce, is a difficult experience and it takes a toll on all family members, especially children. Parents need to collaborate and continue to parent together for the sake of their children, making them feel comfortable about the new arrangements. The more cooperation parents can establish regarding decisions involving their children, the better parenting visits will be for everyone. The following are some ideas that you can implement during your visitation, now referred to as “parenting time” in Illinois, to make sure all goes smoothly:
Set a Calendar
Both homes should have a calendar for the kids. Together, you can mark weekly events like weekday dinners, school events and overnight outings. Be on time for your parenting time visits and be there for your kids. Remember: your email and text messages can wait. Also, try to be upbeat and optimistic, setting realistic expectations for time spent together. As your kids get older especially, stay “in the know” of what is going on with each child – who has instrument lessons and soccer practice and at what time. The task of keeping a calendar will be more difficult for the parent who never may have managed the family’s calendar in the past. Take a breath and remember you’re doing this because spending quality time together lets your children know that they are important to you.
Create a Positive Atmosphere
Your goal is to make your children feel comfortable and cared for during the transition of being a “nuclear family unit” to a separated household. Further, you will want to connect with your kids individually as much as you can, and remember to celebrate their individuality and independent choices. Finally, creating a positive atmosphere is more important than ever. So, under no circumstance should the other parent be discussed in a negative or disparaging way. Children become much more alert and sensitive to questions and comments about their other parent, as naturally a child is loyal to both of their parents. It should come as no surprise then that children will feel conflicted when talking about the other parent and/or feel they should not mention them at all. By maintaining a positive and upbeat attitude about the transition, it will help put the children at ease and reassure them that neither parent will put them in an awkward position.
Do Not Argue
Let’s face it – Arguing is uncomfortable to witness for everyone! In the same vein as “create a positive atmosphere” above, keep in mind that if you argued in front of your kids as a married couple, make sure those habits don’t carry over into parenting time. Visits are for them, including drop-off and pick-up times. When you have disagreements about parenting choices, create a separate time to discuss these issues. Do not try to hash these out at exchanges, as the kids will be paying close attention to how these go. If you need a mediator, contact your attorney who can suggest the best form of mediation for your situation.
Phone Numbers and Phone Calls
Equip your child with a notebook of information including phone numbers for both parents, close family members and trusted caregivers. It is important for you to show them it is okay to stay in touch with the other parent, creating a positive relationship between parents and children. If you are the parent exercising parenting time, be cognizant that calls to the other parent should be allowed and/or encouraged for instances like saying “good night” or letting the other parent know if something unusual or exciting happened that day. The bottom line is that you want your child to feel it is okay to communicate with your co-parent.
It’s also important to let your kids know that missing the other parent is okay. If the other parent is being missed, have your kids draw pictures, do crafts or write a note if the child is old enough to write. Raising a child is a team effort, and letting your children express their emotions while in your care is very important. The sweet token, whether it’s simply a page they colored for their mom or dad, can be presented at the conclusion of the visit and represents your willingness to work together to raise a happy, well-adjusted child.
It is essential for parents to create a collaborative effort so that parenting time can be pleasant, constructive and comfortable for everyone, especially for children. For assistance or legal advice for your family regarding divorce, setting up visitation parenting plan or any other divorce-related issue, contact Sherer Law Offices. Expert divorce attorneys are available to advise you throughout all steps of divorce, including legal advice to help you set up the best visitation schedule for you and your family.