Tips for Creating Positive Time with Your Kids during Divorce

Kristin Little is a licensed mental health therapist, Collaborative coach, and writer at Kristin Little Counselling.

Establishing positive visits with your kids is an essential part of helping them to adjust to the changes of a two home family. Having positive visits is vital for continuing the connection and relationship and  ensuring kids feel reassured, responded to and truly seen by their parents after time away. Here are some suggestions that can help you and your children connect:

  1. Make Transitions positive and friendly. Treat the other parent with respect for the brief time you interact. Parents should be free to come to the door and be greeted pleasantly as would any other visitor. For kids you may offer hugs and reassurance that all is well, but keep it brief and light. Parents, resist discussing issues or problems that may interfere with your task of bridging the two homes. Transitions are a stressful time and children are acutely sensitive to tension. Despite any conflict you should challenge yourself to do this simple transition with dignity and respect.
  2. Be prepared to be emotionally engaged and present. Do your best to take care of other responsibilities so you can be relaxed and open to opportunities to connect. If other people are present, find some time to yourselves to reconnect, even if brief.  If you get distracted juggling lots of tasks, build in time that is predictable and regular for a routine. Ask kids what their idea of a good time together might be and create something together.
  3. If children miss the other parent listen, acknowledge and comfort but don’t allow child to manipulate boundaries or refuse the schedule. Be empathetic and reassuring. Let them know it is normal to miss the other parent and that this two-home thing is hard to get used to. Offer telephone contact freely, but keep it short and simple. The off-duty parent should encourage them to enjoy their other home, reassure their child that they are also okay and convey confidence in the other parent to comfort and care for them.
  4. Allow for quiet time to find each other again. Resist the urge to over schedule with activities. Children are reassured with routine daily life activities. Acknowledge the transition and perhaps ask children how they feel, what they need and convey it is okay to need time and space or ask for whatever feels best.
  5. Expect that children may need time to readjust. Parents should manage their own feelings of rejection if children aren’t immediately responding to their overtures of connection. This is where you put aside your own for a bit and give space for kids’ feelings.
  6. Join kids in their activities. Let them lead or choose an activity and participate with enthusiasm. In all the chaos and change, kids crave small but meaningful acts of being seen.
  7. If you have more than one child, find special time for each child during visits. During the activity find time to say something specific about a recent achievement of theirs that you admire or something special about your child that is meaningful to you. Children need to know that despite the difficulties you are still paying attention to how they are growing and changing.
  8. Establish consistent daily schedule and follow through with established rules and discipline. Children are comforted knowing that some important things stay the same and that despite the changes you are still committed and effective in your role as a parent.
  9. Establish family traditions. Plan activities that help to anchor them in family life ongoing. Consider a blend of old and new, both big and small. One of the biggest comforts for young and old alike is familiarity and routine. Predictability helps link past, present and future and in divorce, reminds us family remains, even if changed.