When Visitation is Limited, Be a Parent First

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who shares custody of his child, a situation I’m in as well. Unfortunately, in the background their child was busy getting into all sorts of trouble and the conversation had to be kept brief. His is a common enough complaint among single-parents; you have a limited amount of time to visit your child or have your child visit you, and what do you end up doing? You deal with the unaddressed behavioral issues the other parent has let slide.

I’m fortunate enough that my ex and I agree on issues and co-parent a great deal, so our extremely bright and at times manipulative son can’t get away with much between us. If you’re in a similar position, you may find that simply picking up the phone or sending an email will be enough to help deal with visitation blow-ups. On the other hand, some divorces and separations can be messy, so it’s necessary to settle issues in your own home.

Don’t Be a Good-Time Parent
One of the toughest balancing acts a parent with shared custody faces is making sure their visitations are memorable and fun for their child while still being a parent. For me, I try to make the first night as light and easy-going as possible. I may overlook a few bad behaviors (nothing too egregious of course) or I might manage a situation with a warning or gentle reminder. The focus that first day is on fun.

That said, parents shouldn’t be their child’s best friend; they should be their parent. On a long weekend, I have no difficulty in enforcing household rules, requiring that my son helps with chores, or reinforcing any at-home rules that his mother might not allow him to get away with, like spending too much time on the computer.

Set Clear Boundaries
If there’s any question at all about what is or isn’t allowed, I don’t hesitate to remind my child. If he’s relentlessly pushing me on something like buying a toy or eating an extra cookie, I remind him of the rules and make it clear that when he’s with Daddy, it’s not a vacation from adult supervision.

Every parent knows when to fight out a battle and when to give a little ground, and I make sure that if he’s loud and obnoxious about something, that will be a battle we’re going to have. He’s learned that boundaries are to be respected and, though he might gripe a bit if he doesn’t get that extra bit of fun, he had learned that throwing a tantrum or constantly bugging Daddy won’t get better results.