The time you spend with your own children is rare, precious and fleeting. Make the most of your parenting time by ensuring your kids feel comfortable, welcomed, and part of your family story. Try these ideas for just about any situation.
Supervised Parenting Time
In some family law cases, you as the Dad may have child visitation time prescribed in a parenting plan, but that time might be supervised by a representative of Virginia’s Department of Social Services (DSS).
Experts at Fatherly provide helpful hints at not only getting the most out of the visit, but building trust so you can have unsupervised visits:
- Plan the time — Never “wing it.” Never come with an electronic crutch like a video game, DVD, or some other babysitting substitute. Have a plan to keep you and your child engaged and interacting.
- Pay cheerfully — If your plan is to go to, say, the Metro Richmond Zoo, expect to pay the expenses for the person supervising your visit. Offer to pay also for food and drinks, as well.
- Be alert and aware — Your primary goal is to be with your child, but a secondary goal is to impress the socks off the supervising representative. Be on time; be clean and groomed; use positive words with your child.
- Keep it clean — Your language, that is. If your child frustrates you, does not seem interested in your plan, or says something inappropriate, keep your cool. Use G-rated language always.
- Vent later — Give yourself a chance after the visit to vent, to unwind, and to share your feelings with (pick one!) a bar buddy, religious leader, therapist, friend, or counselor. Do not unload on the supervising agent or your child.
Last, says Fatherly, is to stay upbeat. Your day at the zoo ended early because Little Louie threw up? Life happens; focus on positives. For all you know, the reason for supervision is to get evidence that you are not the horror the children’s mother makes you out to be.
Home is where you hang your hat. Most of us don’t wear hats anymore, but home is what you make it, wherever it is.
If you are having parenting time, you do not have primary custody. If you want primary custody, prove to the courts that you are the better parent for it. To prove you are the better parent, ensure your home is a parenting expert’s dream:
- Provide for the physical well-being of your child, even if only for the weekend — Keep Junior’s weekday routines of bedtime and wake time. Make a conscious effort to have snacks, meals and beverages you know your child enjoys. Keep spare clothes (one nicer outfit; one roughhouse outfit) handy.
- Provide for the psychological well-being of your child — Strategically put up mementos from previous parenting times, like pictures, ticket stubs, Junior’s Little League glove, and so on. Let your interests take a back seat to your children’s lives. Avoid superseding Junior’s existing extracurricular events. If he has kickboxing on Saturdays, take him to kickboxing and skip the zoo.
Make sure your children put their imprint on whatever environment they are in with you (RV, apartment, fixer-upper house, your Mom’s basement) so they do not feel like guests.
Know Your Child
Nearly everyone has experienced the awkward gift from the relative who fixes you at a certain age. For years you got a holiday present for an eight-year-old, even when you were driving yourself to your first job.
Do not be the Dad Who Doesn’t Know. If you want your kids to feel at home, pay enough attention to their changing interests so you are not booking tickets to Disney on Ice when they want to play paintball. Spend time, not money, together.
If, like many men, you have a Dad memory (you know the entire roster of the Norfolk Tides but forget your kids’ birthdays), write down important information:
- Clothing and shoe sizes
- The grades your children are in school
- Names of your child’s current year teachers
- Sports they currently play
- Food and medicine allergies
- Names of two of their friends
- Names of their primary doctor and dentist
Update this list (subtly) at every parenting time. Keep your eyes open, and stay positive. If your 13-year-old wants her teddy bear, don’t judge, just let her get it. It’s part of her home, so it should be part of your world, too.
Call the Child Custody Attorneys for Dads
For helpful answers to your dilemmas about parenting time, child support, and all aspects of separation and divorce, contact The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184. You can also reach us online or stop by our office in Virginia Beach Town Center. Our team of experienced custody attorneys will help you with very big issues involving your littlest family members.