Working on creating a visitation schedule for a family that’s recently separated is never easy, but creating a formal schedule can help smooth over a lot of bumps in the road before they even happen. No matter how well you and your former spouse get along, having a schedule you can reference gives both of you a solid frame you can build your new relationship around without risking further stress on your children.
Child custody can be a contentious issue even in the most amicable of divorces. The problem only worsens when alcohol abuse is involved. Specifically, it can be a point of contention in three different ways:
None of these issues are cut and dry because the following questions will come up:
(1) Can you prove that the parent is, in fact, alcohol dependent?
(2) Is one parent accusing the other without merit?
(3) What effect does any drinking during visits have on the child’s well-being?
Proving alcoholism in custody cases is relatively easy in certain situations– for example, if the parent has a recent history of alcohol-related arrests and/or they are attending a court-mandated treatment program. Some will also admit that they have a problem during court proceedings and enter treatment voluntarily. If neither of these things happens, most “evidence” will be based on hearsay. In the worst-case scenario, the child becomes the informant, “spying” on the accused parent and reporting back to the other — which can be severely damaging to all involved.
It’s simple: you want each encounter with your child to be meaningful, no matter how frequently your parenting time schedule allows you to see them. Each experience is a new chance to bond, to grow, and to create lasting memories you’ll both carry forever.
Some parent / child bonding comes simply from creating a normal, established routine. In any time together, opportunities abound for moments of low-stress, low-pressure bonding:
Help With Schoolwork
This is routine for millions of kids. Frustration with homework is a universal rite of passage for all children—so it matters immensely that there’s a parent there to check up on it, to make sure they understand it, and to help them through it. This becomes even more important when major projects loom on the horizon.
Ask About Their Day
A simple question opens the door for all sort of conversations they may remember forever. One small tip (especially for parents of teenagers): make the questions open-ended. If you ask “How was your day?” you’ll probably get “Fine” in return. If you ask “Did you have a good day?” you’ll probably get a “Yes.” On the other hand, if you ask “What did you learn today?” or “What was the best part of school today?” you’ve opened the door to a real conversation.
Teach Them To Do Something Around the House
All children are curious about what it means to be an adult. Teaching them to perform the tasks of a grown-up is an opportunity for serious bonding. Cook a meal. Change the oil. Fix the washer. Do some laundry. This also opens up avenues for discussion and learning: teaching your son how to hook up a new TV opens up the chance to discuss why we pay for cable—which is a chance to talk about why we go to work—which is a chance to ask “What are you most interested in at school? What do you think you might want to do every day as an adult?”
Other bonding opportunities may take a little more up-front planning, but they’re well worth it when you consider the memories you’ll make.
Take in Local Entertainment
What’s available where you live? Pro football? Disney on Ice? Is the circus in town? Can you rent a fishing boat? Wherever you live, there’s bound to be something within driving distance that will hold their attention. Again, this gives you a chance to open up a conversation that explores their interests: would they like taking dance classes? Do they want to try out for baseball?
Introduce Them to Fine Dining
A good meal can be life-changing. Many adults remember the first time they realized there was a world of food and culture out there they’d never experienced before, but there’s no reason that revelation has to wait until adulthood. For the price of a few trips to the movies, you could teach your daughter what it means to be treated to a truly fancy restaurant; you could teach your son what it means to order a perfect steak.
It’s a good idea to have a sense of what they love the most, so you can always have a backup plan in mind in case the time just isn’t clicking. But no matter how you choose to spend your scheduled parenting time with your children, what they’re going to remember the most is the love and effort you pour into them.