Practical help & advice for single parent mothers & fathers | Kate & Emily
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When Children Lose Interest in Visits, improving the experience for all
‘Visits’ I gather is the wrong word to use for describing your children’s weekends with the parent they don’t live with. ‘Visits’ sends messages we hadn’t even thought about. It seems obvious now I’ve had it pointed out: don’t call them visits – as soon as you do that the children become ‘visitors’ in their other parent’s home. Children can cope with the idea of 2 homes so use that. So instead of visit they can ‘spend time with’ their Mum or Dad, or ‘go to Dad’s / Mum’s house’. And now I do think about it I wonder if ‘visits’ helps to reinforce in our heads the feeling that we’re the main parent, we’re were it happens and encourages us to think of the one being ‘visited’ as an unequal partner in this parenting lark? Just a thought…. And I suppose, as the child, if you think of time with your other parents as a ‘visit’ then it begins to sound unappealing – what right-minded teenager ever ‘visits’ anyone, let alone an ageing, un-cool, out of touch and embarrassing parent? Insights from growing girls and boys…. I reckon the following quotes from the young explain the problem of ‘visits’ and help you to realise that to be hurt by them not wanting to go is unnecessary, as you can begin to see what it might be that stops them and then you can begin to see how you can make it work. Read on.
‘Why should I come to see you, what will we do? You’ve got no broadband, no Sky TV and you live in the middle of the country with a baby. I’ve got no friends there’
‘I’d go if my Dad didn’t spend so long in bed, didn’t shout so much, and spent more time with us on his own, with his girlfriend not there’.
‘His new wife doesn’t like me, and tells me off all the time about table manners, and my messy room. She won’t even let me feed my half-brother. I think my Dad worries so much about what she thinks, that he doesn’t stand up for me and just lets her be nasty. I don’t go anymore.’
‘I never have the things I want with me. My CDs are never in the right house’
‘When I was out with my dad and his girlfriend, someone might make a comment like ‘how old’s your son?’ she’d never tell them that I wasn’t her son – she just told them my age. I hated that and it made me really resentful – how dare she pretend she was my Mum’
Of course children have to see both parents. However, it’s very common for children to put their foot down and refuse to go and see their live-away parent. It’s not usually about the parent, it’s about the child and the fact that friends become more important than family. As does having their things around them. Why on earth would they want to be parted from Sky and their friends? It’s a no-brainer to a teenager. To the parent desperate to see them it’s a no-brainer too as they scream inside with the pain of rejection ‘because you’re my child!’ Now I’m not a child expert, but I know this sort of thing happens a lot and that makes me think that when it happens to me I’m going to do my utmost to remember that it’s not me that they can’t be bothered to see, it’s their day-to-day life they can’t do without. So, I reckon I’d work on making sure they had a life with me too. This is what I’d do:
And if I was the one who had them all the time, I’d talk up going to stay with their other parent like mad – weekends off are, to me, the main perk of being a single parent!
Handover is always tricky with emotional and tired children (and parents!). It can be a flash point for many, especially for those who are still effectively at war with their ex. Here’s some tips from others on how they try to minimise the stress and ease the process:
Some have rituals that help the children settle down quickly when they come back after a visit:
Making ‘visits’ or going to their other parent work best means that both parents need to work together and help each other to get it right for their, and their children’s sakes. Read our co-parenting section for help on working together as parents.
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