While custody arrangements involving visitation are rarely straightforward, time with your children can be a source of joy for you and an opportunity to provide a source of emotional security for your kids.
Rules of Thumb
It's important to gear what you're doing with your visits to your children's ages and interests, but there are a few general rules to follow in any event:
- Always show up on time or early. The visits will be something your child will look forward to, and being late or missing a visit can be incredibly disappointing. Conversely, being consistent will build a foundation of trust, as your child will develop a sense that you will do what you say you will. So, make sure you plan for a definite way to get to the visit and give yourself plenty of time.
- Be positive and enjoy your interaction with the children. Don't use the time to talk in a negative way about the other parent or ask for information about what the other parent is doing.
- Make goodbyes as painless as possible. If you can, establish a small ritual so your child—and you—know that you'll see each other again soon.
Visitation Guidelines by Age
The way to best approach visitation depends a great deal on the age of the children. Every stage has its challenges but is also a lot of fun.
The first year of a child's life is critical to developing a bond with both parents. Even with visitation every few days, you'll see a change in your infant.
At this age, just being there is the most important thing. Cuddles, talking, singing (babies don't care if you can't carry a tune in a bucket), and feeding times are all rich experiences for an infant. Put down your phone as much as practically possible—this is a magical age that goes by in a flash.
Toddlers and Preschoolers (1-4 years)
This is a time of rapid development. Acquiring language and starting to make sense of the world, toddlers are forming foundational memories of their family experience.
Feeling safe and attended to while exploring the world is most important at this stage. Find out what your child's favorite things to do are at the other parent's home and watch your child's reactions to new things so you can get a sense of what works.
If your child is very active physically, go to the park and play on structures meant for little people, or get out in the yard for supervised play. Blow bubbles or kick a ball around.
Age-appropriate books build a love of stories and lay the groundwork for strong reading skills down the road.
Listen to music and dance like nobody's watching.
Separation anxiety can be a major issue during this phase; some parents find that always dropping off rather than getting picked up works best, so the child doesn't feel one parent is interrupting the time with the other.
Older Children (5-12)
Kids at this age often have jam-packed schedules, so adjusting your calendar to school and extra-curricular events is really important in making sure you get the quality time that is your due. It can be complicated and mean a lot of trade-offs in life to make it happen.
Kids this age get more flexible and are growing into humans with interests, so trips to the zoo or museum or a ball game or a concert can be great experiences you can both enjoy.
This is the time for conversation and getting to know your children as people. What music or movies do they like and why? Who are their friends? Truly listening to your children not only them a sense that their opinions matter to you.
As teenagers will remind you every chance they get, they aren't kids anymore. The push and pull of who gets to make which decisions is a daily tussle.
Find common ground and things you can enjoy together. Go to the game, the play, the awards ceremony. They will remember you were there, and you will, too.
A Final Word
While visitation can seem less than ideal, it also offers a chance to be on your own with your kids and be the parent you want to be. The time you have is valuable and allows you to play a crucial role in the people they will become.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help with visitation and custody questions and concerns. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.