We know from the vast amount of research that’s been conducted that children of divorce benefit most when they still have equal access to both of their parents.
Unfortunately, depending on your parenting plan or visitation schedule, you might only have a limited amount of time to spend with your child during any given week. Many common custody arrangements leave divorced dads feeling shortchanged as they struggle to remain actively involved in their child’s life.
With their time limited, some fathers feel pressure to make the most of their visitation time by doing something extra special. While you certainly want your child to enjoy their time with you, you don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming a “Disneyland Dad.” It’s fine to give your kids occasional gifts and plan fun activities and trips, but it’s even more important to uphold important parental responsibilities such as helping with homework and instilling discipline in your child.
The challenge for fathers with limited visitation rights is finding ways to do that when they’re not around the child on a daily basis.
Here are some ideas to help you develop a strong bond with your child while still following your regular visitation schedule.
Keep in touch
If your parenting plan allows it, keep in touch with your child about important events in their life even when they’re not staying with you. You don’t want to be overbearing or rub your ex the wrong way by constantly peppering your kid with calls during their parenting time, but there are subtle ways to let your child know you’re always thinking about them even when you’re not around.
Make sure you know all the big events and activities they have coming up. Shoot them a good luck test on the day of their spelling test or give them a call after their big soccer game to see how they did. They’ll appreciate how invested you are even if your visitation plan prevents you from physically being there.
Go low key
It’s tempting to always plan fun, elaborate activities when you are finally able to spend time with your child, but sometimes keeping it low key can help foster a stronger relationship.
Instead of dashing off to an amusement park, take your kid to lunch and have a heart to heart talk about what’s going on in their life.
Make them feel at home
Even if your child is only spending a day or two a week at your house, make it seem as though they’re a permanent part of your home.
Give them their own bedroom or at least their own space that is their own. Help them decorate it how they like so it shows off some of their personality.
Encourage them to use your TV, stereo, computer, etc., but also make them clean up after themselves and perform regular household chores. That should help give them a sense of ownership of the place.
Whenever your child is at your house, you want it to feel like home for them so they’re comfortable and don’t feel like a visitor.
Don’t encourage resentment
Especially in the immediate aftermath of a divorce, it is common for a child to withdraw and even harbor negative feelings toward one of the parents. If the other parent feeds this bitterness, it is parental alienation, which can be a legitimate threat to your child’s health.
Both parents need to be encouraging about the time the child spends with the other parent. It is for your child’s own good to have a healthy relationship with both their mother and father.
When your child doesn’t get to see you very often, they might act like they don’t want to leave you when it’s time to go back to their mother’s house. It’s your responsibility to make sure they do. Other times, they might act like they can’t wait to get away from you. In those instances, you as painful as they are, avoid lashing out with anger or resentment.
When you and your ex work together to ensure your child builds a good relationship with both of you, you are helping the child grow and mature into a more well-rounded person. Eventually, they’ll appreciate the unselfishness you were able to show.