Parental behavior has a great influence on the emotional adjustment of their children.
This is equally true after the dissolution of a marriage. The following time-sharing guidelines have been found to be helpful to children in managing time with parents in separate households. Time sharing should be pleasant not only for the children, but for both parents. Time with each parent should help your children maintain a good relationship with both parents.
Time with the children should not be limited to the former marital home. Unless otherwise decreed in unusual cases, each parent will have the children in his or her home overnight. It may include trips and outings elsewhere. The question is often asked, “Should the children go to a parent’s girl/boy friend’s house?” The answer is usually no: time with the children is intended to be time for the parent and the children to be with each other and to maintain strong relationships. Having other people participate may dilute the parent–child experience. Also, it may appear to the children that their parent does not have time for them, and does not care enough to give them undivided attention. Introducing the children to a new partner may be confusing for the children, so do so only after giving careful thought to the children’s needs, adjustment to the separation, and to how serious the new relationship is.
Keep your schedule and inform the other parent when you cannot keep an appointment. Missing time with the children without notifying the other parent may be construed by the child as rejection. Dependability and punctuality are duties owed to the child and the other parent, and should be respected. Furthermore, last-minute schedule changes for emergencies should be promptly agreed to and facilitated. Schedule adjustments that are agreed to by both parents well in advance for their convenience or the children’s surely make sense. But too many missed visits and schedule changes, for one parent’s convenience or unpredictable whims, will lead to bitterness and conflict that neither parent needs and that will ultimately confuse and hurt the children. Both parents may need to adjust the schedule from time to time according to the children’s ages, health and interests.
If you are moving out of the former marital home, you may wonder whether your time with the children inconveniences or saddens them. You may think “I’m no longer needed; the other parent has the home and the children.” This is understandable, but wrong. Your time with the children is one of the few times that you have personal contact with the children, and for that reason, it should be a meaningful one for both you and the children. Even though the parents have not been able to get along, the children still need both parents if they are to thrive.
Often parents question where they should take the children when it is their scheduled day and what should be planned for them in the way of amusement, particularly if they are young children. Activities may add to the pleasure of your time together, but most important of all is your involvement with the children. Giving of yourself is more important than whatever material things or experiences you may give to your children. A dizzying round of too many fun activities will probably not be appreciated by the child. A massive assault of special treats and gift-giving will probably be resented by the other parent. Also, it will surely give the children the wrong idea about life and what parents are for.
Your time with the children should not be used to check on the other parent. The children should not be pumped for this kind of information. They should not be used as little spies. In such a climate, the children’s perception is that the parents hate each other or that the children have to take sides, and these children will suffer. In their minds, if they do anything to please one parent, they may invite outright rejection by their other parent. They have already lost one parent in their minds and are fearful of losing the other. For this reason, parents should always show respect for each other.
Children may be left with many questions following visits, but most of them are the natural result of a highly unnatural and uncomfortable situation. Both parents should make every effort to discuss and to agree on ways to deal with these problems. Both parents should strive to agree on matters pertaining to the children, especially discipline, so that one parent is not undermining the other parent’s efforts.
Concerns such as custody agreements can be less difficult through the process of Collaborative Divorce proceedings. If you are pursuing a divorce and want to dissolve the marriage and raise your children with as little friction as possible, give Davis Law Group a call. Our Collaborative Divorce specialists can help you move forward in a way that is as healthy as possible for everyone involved.
This information has been modified by Davis Law Group, P.C. for use by its clients from materials revised and reprinted by the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar originating from a handout obtained many years ago from Judge Jack T. Ryburn of the Los Angeles, California, Supreme Court.