Parents who find themselves in the non-custodial role following Illinois child custody proceedings may face initial anxiety when their child visitation sessions begin. It is difficult for many parents to transition from spending every day with a child to spending only (for example) a few days of concentrated quality time with the child per month. As such, it is natural for non-custodial parents to feel pressure to make early visitation sessions go almost perfectly.
There is a wealth of information available on various ways to make the most of court-ordered visitation time with your child. Some of our favorite bits of advice can be found below:
Don’t overschedule visitation time – Some of the best child bonding moments happen when both parties are relaxed and in a good mood. If a parent spends too much time scheduling and transporting children to activities during the visitation time, parents may find themselves becoming distracted from what matters most during visitation time: having quality bonding time with the child.
Give children their own space – Setting a living space aside for your child and his belongings can go a long way in making the child feel welcome in your new home. Your child may feel more like your child and less like a guest if he is encouraged to personalize his space and if he is shown that his space will be private. It may likewise be valuable to take your child shopping during one of your earliest visitation periods to pick out duplicate toiletries and other comfort items so that you can lessen the your child’s burden of having to transfer from one home to another.
Artfully shrug off a cold shoulder – It is normal for children to reach an age at which they become too absorbed in friends, school activities, and other interests to make parent-child bonding time a priority. It is also normal for some parents, especially parents who do not spend every day with their child, to feel neglected or personally wronged by the child’s lack of attentiveness. If your child reaches this stage, it is seldom beneficial to force the child to spend time with you. Instead, try to find low-pressure activities to do together during low-priority time periods, like going out for breakfast or watching a midday or late-night movie together. The phase will likely pass in a few years as your child grows more secure in his surroundings. In the meantime, your child will likely be grateful to have an opportunity to spend time with you in a setting that does not draw away from what he may feel are his most pressing and stressful obligations in his life.
Recognize the need to be flexible – There is no parenting rulebook that can outline how to make your visitation most comfortable for you. Tactics that work with other families may not necessarily be helpful for your own. Understand the variability of the situation, be observant for what works and what does not, and be ready to make adjustments.
Moreover, it is also helpful to be flexible about the parenting schedule. Understand that sometimes children may need to miss visitation days due to school trips, sleepovers, holidays, and other activities. Try to speak with your former partner up front about working out a plan in which both of you share equitably in your child’s free time.
Regardless of what approach you take in crafting a personalized child visitation schedule, adopting a new parenting schedule may take patience and practice. However, the initial time period following divorce, when you and your child first learn to spend individualized time together, can also be one of the most fulfilling times in your parent-child relationship.
At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., we understand that there is much more to guiding families through child custody proceedings than merely finding legal angles to each case. Our Illinois family law attorneys understand that the most successful child custody settlements are the ones that arise from attempts to work with parents to accommodate their real-life circumstances. If you anticipate needing help in a child custody or visitation-related matter, we encourage you to contact us to discuss your issue. We can be reached at (877) 889-4515 or through our website.