Transitioning from being a full-time parent living in the home with your child to a parent who has visitation privileges can be quite an adjustment, and it can be difficult to know what you should be doing with your children when you do have them. Do you try to make every visitation a special treat? Do you try to fit all the ordinary parenting that you would have done during the week into one weekend? If you only have visitation every other weekend – or even less often – you know that a lot can happen in between the times when you see your children. Will you know how to talk to them? Take a look at some of the things you should do during your visitation.
Show Up on Time
One of the most important things you can do when you’re a parent with visitation is to make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the time you get. Don’t be late to pick your kids up, and don’t drop them back off at home early. Your kids know how much time they’re supposed to get with you, and they’ll notice if you cut it short.
For children who have just been through the upheaval of a divorce or separation, what you do with your time together is less important than just having that time together in the first place. Children may feel abandoned by the parent who doesn’t have custody and making it a point to spend all of your visitation time with them helps to reassure them that they’re still important in your life.
Find a New Hobby
If you’re not sure what you have to talk about with your child, this might be a good time to find a new hobby that you can share together. You could teach them to fish, you could build model planes or cars together, you could take up geocaching, or you could learn to cook or bake and involve your child in making tasty treats.
The point is to pick something and make it your thing that you and your child do together. This gives the two of you something to bond over and look forward to during your time apart. It also makes planning for your visitation time a little easier if you know ahead of time that you’ll be spending some of that time fishing in the river or testing out a new recipe, you can just plan the rest of your time around that.
Practice Active Parenting
Just because your kids don’t live with you doesn’t mean that you aren’t their parent. And as a parent, you don’t just get to do the fun stuff with them, you also have to make sure that you’re doing the things that any parent should do, whether they live with their child or not. That means assigning chores, helping with homework, making sure that your kids are eating nutritious food, and so on.
Ask your kids to bring any homework they have with them when they come to visit and make time for them to get it done during the visit. If they don’t have homework, be sure to still ask them about school – what they’re learning, what projects they’re working on, any special activities or events that are coming up. You want to at least be informed about how and what they’re doing, and ideally, you want to find ways to get involved as well. If your child mentions an upcoming field trip or school event, find out if you can chaperone or volunteer.
Children need routines and boundaries, so make sure to set some for when your children are spending time with you. For example, they should have a specific bedtime when they’re staying overnight, and they should be expected to help out around the house the way they would be at home. You don’t have to have exactly the same rules as your ex has – for example, it’s fine if you think they should be able to stay up an hour later on the weekends at your house than they do on the weekdays at home – but you should take care not to completely undermine their other parent’s rules and restrictions. Don’t let your kids eat ice cream sundaes for dinner (other than on a rare special occasion) or watch unlimited television just because you can.
Help Your Child Make Friends in Your Neighborhood
You want your kids to spend time with you during your visitation, but you should also want them to feel at home in your home. One way to do that is to help make sure that your kids have friends in your neighborhood as well as in their neighborhood at home.
Make an effort to meet other parents in the area and introduce your kids to their kids when they’re visiting. Not only will this help your kids feel more at home when they’re visiting you but it will also take some of the pressure off of you. You don’t necessarily have to plan something to do together for every minute your kids are staying with you if your children can spend some of that time playing with kids their own ages. If you have multiple children, it’s important to spend some one-on-one time with each of them as well, and making sure that your kids have friends around to play with can help – you can work in time with one child while the other one is occupied playing with other children in the neighborhood.
Involve Extended Family
Make sure that you include your own parents, siblings, and other relatives in your visitation plans when you can. Your children can benefit from spending time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from your side of the family, and depending on the situation, it may not be feasible for their other parent to make plans with your extended family members. Take the initiative to include your own extended family in your visitation plans yourself. That way, your children won’t lose touch with the people who love them on your side of the family.
Visitation may seem awkward at first, but once you and your children establish a routine and get accustomed to the new arrangement, it will go smoothly. Your children will appreciate that you’re making an effort to spend time with them and continue to parent even after a divorce. Contact National Family Solutions if you are going through a divorce and need help getting visitation rights to your child.