You know the scenario, you have limited time per week or month to spend time with your child(ren). So, you are anxious to make sure that you are making the most out of the limited time that you have together. We understand, and so we’ve compiled 5 tried and tested tips that you can use to help make your access visit more successful.
Tip #1 – Come prepared for your visit.
A few days before attending your visit, spend some time thinking about what activities or tasks you can do with your child(ren) based on your child(ren)’s age, developmental level and interests. Prepare at least 2-3 activities or tasks to do with your child(ren) on the day of the visit. Give your child(ren) the choice of which activity or task you will complete together so that they feel included in the process.
Another way that you can prepare for your visit is by bringing a nutritious snack or balanced meal depending on the time and length of your visit. If possible, and if time permits, encourage your child(ren) to help you with preparing the meal or snack.
Examples of activities or tasks: arts and crafts activity, reading a book together, playing their favourite board/card game, making a snack together, etc.
Tip #2 – Focus on the present.
The unfortunate thing is that you do tend to miss a lot of what occurs in your child(ren)’s life. The fortunate thing is that you have dedicated, uninterrupted, focused time to spend on getting to know your child(ren)! There is lots to talk about. Find about your child(ren)’s interests/disinterest, school/community involvements, likes/dislikes, peers, etc. If you spend the time on getting to know your child(ren) they will most likely appreciate the genuine interest that you are showing in them.
There are different ways to try to get to know your children, most children do not respond well to 20 questions; however, asking thoughtful questions during an activity or game can really help a child with sharing openly about themselves. Be patient, as well be mindful of and respect your child’s comfort level in sharing. It may take some time to build the trust required when sharing, especially in situations where there’s been a lengthy period of child-parent separation.
Children still struggle with having their voices heard and a lot of times after a major life event like separation or divorce, children can increasingly feel as though they are not heard or their opinions are unimportant. You have the opportunity to demonstrate to your child that you’re their biggest fan! Now that is time well spent!
Tip #3 – Avoid making promises that cannot be kept.
We cannot stress this enough. Simply put, your credibility with your child(ren) depends on their ability to trust that you are able to keep your word. Please don’t dig yourself into a hole by promising things that you have no ability to confirm can be done. We know it is tempting to speak with your child(ren) about your hopes for the future, i.e., a trip to see their grandparents in Denmark next year; however, please understand that a failed promise does damage to your child(ren)’s view of you. You lose reliability and trust points with your child(ren), even if your heart’s intention was not to do so. You also create the potential of your child(ren) seeing their custodial parent in a negative light, especially if the plan hinged on that parent’s “yes.” This may seem like a harmless outcome, but in actuality it creates undue stress for not just the custodial parent, but also your child(ren).
Tip #4 – Establish simple routines in the visits.
It is a well-known fact in the child development world that children require routines in order to help promote their sense of stability and safety. No matter how much time you have with your child(ren), you can build routines that can boost your child(ren)’s feelings of safety and security while in your care.
Examples of simple routines to complete at each visit: set the table for meal/snack time together, wash your hands together prior to eating, at the beginning of the visit each of you share something interesting/funny/noteworthy that happened since the last time you met, complete homework together.
For more information on this topic, check out this site: http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/family-life/structure-routines.
Tip #5 – Prepare your child(ren) for the departure.
A simple 5-15 minute reminder, depending on child(ren)’s developmental level, can help to prepare your child(ren) for leaving the visit. This may seem like an insignificant thing to do, but it can do a great deal with helping your child emotionally and physically prepare for the transition of leaving your presence. Typically it is difficult for a child to fully adjust to the transition of seeing their parents in different settings, no matter how long they’ve been having access visits. Thus, regular departure reminders can act as a simple tool to promoting your child(ren)’s best interests!
Linda Bleau, RSW, MSW, suggests that parents adopt a trademark handshake/symbol/catch phrase with their child(ren) that further helps with the transition period. In essence, it symbolizes the sentiment, “Until next time, you’ll remain in my heart.”
So here are just a few tips that we believe are crucial to increasing the success of an access visit. Please feel free to share with us your own tried-and-tested tips below in the comment section.
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Stay tuned for our next blog…”How to prepare your child(ren) for their first access visit”
At Bleau Associates’, we believe peaceful solutions are possible!