Visitation arrangements don’t always give kids the opportunity to see each parent 50% of the time. Practical considerations often make equal division of visitation impossible. For instance, in some cases, one parent works longer hours than the other. Or, one parent lives in a different state or country and the child must attend school for 10 months of the year in one location. Sometimes, there are different reasons for unequal visitation, such as financial considerations or a past history of abuse or the fact that a parent travels for work reasons. Whatever the cause of the discrepancy, children can feel the pain of loss. They usually love both parents and want to see each of them on a frequent, regular and consistent basis.
What is the best way for children to get enough time with each parent after a divorce or separation? Consider the following tips:
Consult a Parenting Coordinator
Even after the legalities have been settled, parents can sometimes modify arrangements in order to meet the changing needs of their growing children. If you don’t have a great working relationship with an ex-partner, then try to enlist the services of a professional parenting co-ordinator in order to find creative ways to add minutes or hours to visitations with kids. These may involve doing a carpool, taking a child to a swimming lesson, meeting the child at religious services or any number of other ways to see each other just a little more often. Of course, as the child gets older, more dramatic changes in visitation may become appropriate as well and can sometimes be negotiated legally.
Improve the Quality of Time Spent Together
The feeling of “not enough time” does not always relate to the actual amount of time a child gets to spend with a parent. Although it certainly helps to have more actual minutes and hours, it is even more important to have more quality time with a child, time in which there is meaningful interaction. While outings to amusement parks, movies and restaurants may be fun, direct interaction is more “filling.” Children need to see their parents in natural settings (at home doing the laundry, in the grocery store doing the weekly shopping, in the kitchen cooking). While “life is happening” they need to be able to share stories, ask questions, do their own version of “show and tell.” In fact, a child can get to know a parent better if they work on a household chore together rather than if they both sit passively watching a movie. So plan the interaction, not the destination!
Utilize Technology to Create More Involvement
If a child feels that he or she is not getting enough time with a parent, then consider tapping technology to encourage more parental involvement — even across the miles. For instance, a child can consult parents about homework through chats, or include them in a birthday celebration via web cam. Telephones can be used liberally for quick contacts. Old fashioned communication strategies like sending letters and pictures via regular mail, can be used to keep up the relationship. Depending on the age of the child, cell phones can be used in addition to computers to faciliate messenging and email correspondence. Children who know that they can reach their parents easily don’t suffer from intense “cravings” for contact. For instance, when a person knows he can have a sweet treat if he wants it, he doesn’t feel so deprived and he doesn’t need it so urgently. Similarly, a child who can easily reach either parent doesn’t feel deprived or “starving” for contact.