Surviving Non Custodial Visits – Non Custodial Parents

Tips for Non Custodial Parents:

  • Plan the visit in advance.  And I don’t mean schedule something to be done on each day.  What I mean is decide beforehand if and how much time you will take off.  If and how much time you will spend alone with your child.  Will you do any activities or day trips?  And who will participate?  This is especially important if you are remarried.  It needs to be very clear between you and your partner, what the flow of the visit will be.  And you both need to agree on this before your child shows up.  The last thing you want is for your child to hear is an argument about how they are negatively impacting your life by being there.  Because no matter what the topic of argument is, that’s what your child will hear.
  • Talk to your child about what they can expect during their visit.  Your child will have a certain amount of anxiety about the trip.  And that comes from mostly from not knowing fully what to expect.  Tell them what you’ve planned, where they will sleep, any family gatherings that will be going on, etc.  This will help them feel more secure and confident about things.
  • Don’t over-schedule!  I know it’s hard.  Because usually these extended visits come during holiday times, either Christmas or summer.  It might just be that this is the only time you can vacation.  And it’s also understandable that you want to show your child a good time and familiarize them with the sights and sounds of your area.  But we all know that the nature of a family can be felt strongest during the day to day running of the household, not during vacation time or sightseeing.  Trust me, your child just wants to spend that precious time they have with you, not at the museum or amusement parks.
  • If possible, take some time off of work, but don’t intentionally plan or not plan vacations around your child’s visit.  If you are remarried and have kids, vacation time may be important to your family.  So go.  Don’t put it off so that your visiting child can come. But if the best time to go is when they’ll be there, don’t quell it for everyone else too.  Run your family and let the visit come where it comes.  Your child shouldn’t expect that you will wait for them to go, and they may even feel odd about going if you do.  But the time together is important, so if you can get some time off from work, do that.
  • If you have other children living in your home or visiting at the same time, consider how that will go and strategize beforehand how you will deal with it.  Not all kids get along and trying to force them, will usually only make things worse.  But your house should have ground rules about respecting each other and you should have disciplinary strategies that everyone knows about, already in place to deal with any behavior which is out of line.
  • Expect some initial awkwardness when your child arrives.  That might make you feel like your child isn’t happy to see you, but chances are they are just nervous.  Ask them lots of questions.  You’ve missed a lot in the months since you saw them last and you need to show them that you are interested in their life away from you, not just their life while they’re with you.  And as much as you might want to tell them all about you, try to resist.  You are the parent and it’s not your child’s job to be interested in your life, it’s your job to interested in theirs.  A good rule of thumb is that if you are talking more than they are, the conversation needs to be adjusted.  Once you’ve learned all you can about them, they will surely have lots of questions for you.
  • Also, if there are other children in the home, don’t allow them to say what you can’t or shouldn’t say, for you.  Those children may have overheard conversations about your ex and/or they may tend to step in and discipline if you are guilt ridden and unwilling.  This is unacceptable and is extremely unhealthy for your whole household.  You are the parent.  And parents should be the only ones with the authority to execute discipline.  And if you allow another child to say what you wish you could, it is the same as if you said it yourself. Your lack of intervening will be seen as a clear endorsement.  And believe me, your child will know exactly where it came from.
  • Don’t try to ‘one up’ your child’s custodial parent.  You don’t need to point out how much nicer your house is, how much bigger their bedroom is, how much more exciting your city is or how much better your family is.  That’s petty and serves nothing except your ego.
  • Don’t take homesickness personally.  You may feel that your child should look at your home as theirs as well and you may feel like you’ve worked endlessly to make your child feel comfortable.  But the reality is that your home is not their home.  They are visiting.  And no matter how comfortable we are, sometimes we just miss home.  It’s natural and not a statement about your parenting.  Support your child instead of making them feel worse and they should be able to work through their feelings.
  • Spend some time alone with your child.  This is something that is so important.  It doesn’t even have to be a lot of time.  If you have other children who you live with, you may think that you don’t get alone time with them, so why is this so important?  But the fact is that those children simply get so much more of you during the year.  With your visiting child, you are trying to build months and months worth of a relationship in a very short time.  That can’t always be done with an audience.
  • When saying goodbye, reassure them that you enjoyed your time with them and that you are looking forward to their next visit.  Let them know that you understand that they are probably looking forward to getting back to their home, friends, life and routine.  Let them know that’s okay, normal and that you don’t blame them for it.  Tell them that they will be in your thoughts even when they aren’t in your home.
  • And lastly, savor that time!  Even if you have 50% custody, it means that you still miss 50%.  You are making up for lost ground here and you need to enjoy every minute that you can.  Parenting is hard and a visit of any length with any child will never be perfect.  But as a parent myself, I can’t think of any reward greater than knowing that you’ve earned the unconditional love of your child.  Knowing that you’ve been the best parent you could be.  That reward is yours for the taking.

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How to Prepare For, Survive and Enjoy Extended Non Custodial Visits — The Grown Up Child
May 3, 2010 at 2:15 am

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