‘But I don’t want to go!’ – making sure your child spends time with their other parent after divorce.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
One of the hardest things you will have to do as a divorced parent is to encourage your children to go with your ex when they don’t want to go, particularly as they turn into teens and want to spend more time with their friends.
But as a parent I think it’s really important that you encourage,and insist, that your children spend time with their other parent. Marriages end but family relationships are forever. They need nurturing, watering and feeding if they are to grow and bloom.
Of course you have a duty of care to make sure that no physical, mental or sexual harm will happen to them but I really believe that it’s your job is to encourage them to have a relationship with their other parent.
You may not be able to stand your ex anymore, let alone love them, but they are your child’s Mum or Dad and they love them and your children will benefit from having a loving relationship with them throughout their life.
Some children don’t handle change well, so the transition can be challenging or quite difficult. You will be doing your children a huge favour if you work to make it as smooth as possible. NOT easy but important .
I have recently written a set of 48 Conversation Cards to help you Co Parent more smoothly with less friction, anger & angst.
Click here to buy them
5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Child Adjust To Family Change:
1. Don’t let your own anger, resentment or anxiety spill out and into your children over them leaving you. Keep the bigger picture to your parenting. Just press your imaginary pause button and remember why it’s important for your children to spend time with their Mum or Dad. If your children feel that you aren’t okay with them going to see their other parent then they aren’t going to be happy. They will pick up unconsciously on your vibes and feel guilty and that’s too much responsibility for a child and not what you want for them. Of course let them know that you will miss them while they are away but you are glad that they are going to be able to spend time with their other parent. You can Skype, Whatsapp or text but don’t over do it – it’s their time to bond with their other parent so don’t over interrupt. If you know things that are planned for that time then remind them in an enthusiastic way so they have something great to look forward to. Be positive, upbeat and a grown up ! Plan something nice for yourself to do to stop yourself fretting, worrying or feeling jealous.
2. But be mindful that it may be a good idea for you to keep your plans to yourself about what you’re doing while the children are away if it is something they would really love to do with you too. If they feel like you are doing something fun without them they may not want to go and see their other parent. If they ask you what you will be doing, let them know the basic things such as cleaning, working, reading a book, watching a film as those types of things that they see you take part in all the time. I also encourage the non resident parent to do the ‘boring ‘ stuff too – life is not all about Disney World and holidays in Dubai ! It’s about doing your homework and eating your broccoli !
3. Encourage and plan for your child to take favourite toys, games, or items to their other parent’s home that are familiar as it can reassure them, help them settle and help them to relax. Have a set of uniform in both houses if it helps, buy 2 pairs of socks, pyjamas or trainers & don’t impose too many limitations – make it easy, and relaxed to have 2 homes.
4. Create routines that give your child a sense of security and let your children know that schedule. Put up a large diary on the fridge in the kitchen so your children can see what’s happening that week and that day. They might like to mark the days on the calendar until they will be with their other parent for the Summer holidays or on their ‘days with Dad’ and it will make it less confusing for them, particularly if they are young.
5. Help your child prepare for being with their other parent. You can give them gentle reminders such as telling them that tomorrow they will be going to their Dad’s house. You can also let them know a couple hours before the transition will take place. Try to have a mutual agreement with your ex that the children can call, Skype, text or email either parent when they want to. This way you can remind them they can give you a call later to tell you how they are doing.
It can be difficult at times to put on the smile and encourage your children to go with their other parent, particularly on birthdays, Christmas or other social occasions. Yet it is something you need to do for them to be happy with the changes and to adjust without damage.
Consistency, respect and dignity is the key to success around the changes and creating your own new traditions will help everyone adjust over time. While divorce isn’t going to be easy for them, or you, your children, regardless of their age, are going to need the love and support of both of you to help get them through it.
Don’t fail to realise how important it is for your child to share time with both of you. Studies have shown that children who spend time with both parents after a divorce grow up happy, confident, resilient and with strong self esteem.
Make sure your child is one of them.