5 Tips for Visitations and Transitions
When my children were in elementary school, they spent every other weekend with their father. They always had a great time with their dad, and I, quite honestly, needed the occasional break from solo parenting. It was the Sunday evening transition back home that was difficult.
As much as I looked forward to the solitary weekend, I also missed them and anxiously awaited their return on Sunday afternoons. In the beginning, I would have a big meal ready as soon as they arrived and eagerly pepper them with questions about their weekend. I soon realized my enthusiasm was overwhelming them. They needed some transition time to go from one home with one set of rules and organization back to their full-time home that had a different structure.
Peter Favaro, in his book Smart Parenting During and After Divorce, discusses creating two homes for the child. “The keys to this are cooperation, sharing of parental responsibilities, a common set of disciplinary rules, and civilized behavior between the parents,” he writes. Few divorces are this ideal, but there are some key points that are important in making moving between homes easier for the children.
- Speak positively about the other parent and the upcoming visit so the child doesn’t feel guilty about going to the other home. Some children feel reluctant about leaving the other parent behind and you may need to reassure them you will be fine.
- Try to have similar rules and routines at both homes. Of course, there will be some differences but, if possible, the parents should communicate and attempt to keep fairly similar bedtimes, discipline and expectations.
- If at all feasible, have a space at both homes that children can feel is “theirs,” where they can keep special items, a stuffed animal, a special blanket, picture of the other parent, whatever tangible item provides a sense of security.
- Attempt to keep a sense of continuity, such as going to the children’s extracurricular activities, school and church functions. This means the children’s schedules need to be posted and followed at both homes. Essential phone numbers such as pediatrician, babysitters, friends, grandparents, etc., should be shared by both parents.
- Keep the lines of communication open between parents and also between parents and children. Children should feel like they have “open access” to both parents. It will help them adjust to weekend visits if they’ve talked to the non-custodial parent frequently between visits. They should also be able to talk to the other parent when they are away from them.
Although you may not be able to control what happens at your ex’s house, you can alter your behavior to make transitions easier for your children. I reluctantly realized I had to forego the enthusiastic interrogation routine and provide a quieter, less stressful period of adjustment for my children. We began a Sunday night tradition of grilled cheese sandwiches and soup in front of the television that helped ease them back into home and routine. Be sensitive to your child’s emotions and be willing to adapt your actions to make the transitions and visitations a positive experience.