It’s hard when fathers are faced with the reality of visitation—a typically negotiated and brief time they have to spend with their children. Visitation is often limited and quite different in comparison to the relationships dads used to enjoy. This change is a lot to handle, so don’t hesitate to seek fathers rights support for help.
It’s essential to make visitation time a great experience for both dads and their children. Here are some ways to make the most of your visitation:
1. Don’t try to be “Mr. Mom.”
The first visitation with your children might be one of the few times you have been alone with them, or you may be an old pro at taking full responsibility for them. Either way, do not try to be a mom. This could set you up for failure. Men are dads. Your children expect you to act like a father, so do the things you’ve always done. If you cooked before, keep cooking. If you haven’t ever laid food on the kitchen table, don’t try to be a gourmet chef. Be honest with your kids and let them learn with you. Invite them into your life and continue to be a part of theirs.
2. Give them space.
Children feel more connected and comfortable when they have a place that is their own. It can be a bedroom, a dresser, or even a desk—anywhere that they can keep their belongings and know they’ll still be there when they return. Let them hang a poster or put a picture they love in a frame. These mementos will put them more at ease.
3. Stay flexible.
The agreement mediated by the courts gives you your visitation rights. You may have every other weekend and holidays, or some other schedule. Just remember that there’s no reason that arrangement should stay constant. You are allowed slight variations by mutual agreement between you, your ex-spouse, and the children. There may be a time your child is invited to a birthday party or a time you can’t get off work. To make shared custody work, avoid rigidity. It only hurts you and your children.
4. Avoid over-planning.
Visitation may initially seem daunting. You may worry about how you will keep the children occupied and having fun. Ask yourself if you were concerned about this prior to the divorce. You probably weren’t. Kids like just being with you and don’t have to be constantly entertained and stimulated. It may take some time, but soon enough you will establish a natural rhythm, a time to make memories and forge strong bonds with your children.
There’s a saying that time heals all wounds. Time is part of the equation—to heal the heart, you must commit to getting better. Injured baseball players don’t just throw in the towel. They diligently work themselves back into playing the game, even though they may feel repercussions and pain from the injury for years. Fatherswho have gone through a bitter divorce may find that the separation feels like an injury and a great disadvantage when it comes to parenting. Remember to call upon the fathering part of yourself. It may be awkward and hard at first, but over time and with patience, things will improve.