Time-sharing and post-divorce family living isn't as easy as it looks on paper. Once you and your ex-spouse complete the process of divorce and separate households, you may see and welcome this as a 'fresh start'. However your children may experience a longer post-divorce adjustment period and they may continue to feel a roller coaster of emotions as a result of the change. When this happens, even the most amicable of co-parenting arrangements can prove stressful.
Many, if not most, children have a difficult time comprehending and adapting to new life circumstances. Different living arrangements and unknown things, places and people can be unsettling to a child. There may be a new step-parent or partner in one (or both) households, the change in neighborhood and daily routine can lead a child to withdraw, throw tantrums, cry and act out in anger without cause. In essence, kids frequently respond to post-divorce change with feelings rather than reason.
Due to this, people sometimes feel divorce is psychologically harmful for kids, though research actually shows divorce generally does not harm children over the long-term unless other factors come into play. When both parents are respectful of each other, actively involved with parenting and are loving toward their children, there is little opportunity for emotional or psychological harm to occur.
Still, even with no negative activity or harmful behavior going on in either household, children may become unruly and emotional for unexplainable reasons and refuse to leave one parent to go to the other parent's house at switch time. It's one of the most common issues divorced parents face with time-sharing. What can you do to make this process easier and smoother for your family?
Here are 5 top co-parenting and visitation tips to keep in mind when faced with a child refusing to switch homes for visitation:
1. Recognize And Respect The Co-Parenting Arrangement And Responsibilities. As the custodial parent, do your best to maintain a good relationship and attitude toward your ex-spouse so that your child or children feel a sense of ease and security with both parents. Part of your responsibility is to encourage, and even require, your child or children to visit and spend time with their other parent, as scheduled.
2. Keep in mind, you may be in trouble if you don't comply with the court's order on visitation. Your ex-spouse can ask the judge to hold you in contempt of court if you intentionally fail to comply with the visitation order by not sending, or refusing to send, your child for visitation.
3. Express Understanding And An Encouraging Attitude To Your Child Or Children. Know that adjusting to living in two separate households may be challenging for your child, and expect that it will take time for the adjustment period. In the meantime, show your child or children the understanding and encouragement they need to make the transition and be as supportive as possible.
4. Be Caring But Firm About The Visitation When
Your Child Refuses To Cooperate. It may take more than once that you'll need to explain to your child that part of having parents living apart is spending time with both parents. Share with them how much both parents equally love them and want to spend time together . Remember, it may take time before kids have adjusted to living in two households and different routines at each. As the adult, it's your job to be supportive and caring but also to make the decision to follow through with the visitation as directed by the courts.
5. Make Ongoing Efforts To Check In With Your Child About How They Feel About The Assigned Living Arrangements. While children are young and in their formative years, time-sharing custody provides an important reminder that their parents still love them and will remain a fundamental part of the lives. As children become teenagers, visitation with your ex-spouse may change in scope due to outside school activities and even after-school/part-time employment. Perhaps in recognition of this fact, the courts largely tend to hold older teenagers responsible for their behavior with respect to visitation, not the custodial parent. Nonetheless, children of all ages benefit from maximum possible contact with both parents so actively encourage teens to maintain visitation as ordered by the family court.
Over Time, Modification To The Time-Sharing Arrangement May Be Required. What worked well for co-parenting at the beginning of the post-divorce period may not work well as children grow and/or parent work obligations change. The co-parenting arrangement should always be made with the best interest of the child or children in mind - it is for their benefit and well-being that such arrangements are formally made by the courts. When you become aware that visitation may be detrimental to your children's academic progress or perhaps your ex-spouse has a new job (or workload) that prevents adequate time, attention and supervision of your children during the visitation, then it may be time to go back into court and ask for a modification, which may trigger a custody evaluation by the court.
If you are a parent who shares custody with your ex-spouse, remember that your child did not choose for his or her parents to get married or divorced, and as such they should suffer as little as a possible as a result of the dismantling of the marital relationship.
Provide your children the support they need to express how they feel about the living arrangements, and try not react too emotionally to whatever feelings they share. If a child resists the idea of visitation, or prefers to live with one parent over the other, it naturally makes life tough for the parents.
Though working through these familial time-sharing challenges can be difficult, the most successful parent and parent-child relationships will always be those where the child feels that his or her feelings are respected. Ultimately, time-sharing and visitation rights are more inclusive than simply setting up a schedule. It is a connection to both parents. And continuing to have a connection with both parents is absolutely essential for the well-being and successful future of your child and children.