When you were married and living with your child, the entire family had a routine. The activities you and your child did together developed naturally.
Now that you are divorced, you might only see your child a couple days a week. That can make things seem very forced and makes it challenging to establish a sense of normalcy since you are around each other for such a short period of time.
The No. 1 thing to keep in mind is that you and your child love each other deeply. You’re their dad and they want to spend time with you, so it doesn’t really matter what it is you’re doing as long as you’re spending time together.
Don’t be a Disneyland Dad
Don’t fall into the trap of being a “Disneyland Dad.”
According to USLegal, a Disneyland Parent is “a noncustodial parent who indulges his or her child with gifts and good times during visitation and leaves most or all disciplinary responsibilities to the other parent.”
Now that you are given less time with your child, there is the temptation to play the role of constant entertainer. Constantly showering them with gifts and going on fun trips while ignoring things like helping them with homework and teaching them discipline is not good parenting.
There is nothing wrong with scheduling in some fun activities, but you should never forgo your more serious parental responsibilities just to win favor with your kid. It’s not always the big vacations and new clothes you bought them that your kids are going to remember 20 years from now. They’ll remember just as fondly the times you made them laugh while watching TV, shared a heart-to-heart talk or even just went for ice cream.
Try to keep things as normal as possible. Eat dinner together and schedule some family time, but also allow for some alone time. Make sure your child takes time to work on homework and has an established bedtime.
The point is to not divert from your typical daily routine. If your child sees you acting naturally, it will reassure them that this situation is normal and will help your house feel more like a home to them.
Make sure they feel at home
Although your child might only be spending a couple days per week in your home, they need to have a bedroom and space to call their home. Let them decorate it however they want and store some of their toys there so they always have something to play with when they come over.
Although this might not be their primary residency, it is a place they are going to be spending a lot of time and they should think of it as their home rather than a place they occasionally go to visit. Let them know that your home is their home even when they’re not living there all the time.
The best way to get the most out of your parenting time is by planning ahead, enjoying however much time you have with each other, and communicating – when possible – between visits.
An experienced family law attorney can help you work out a parenting time arrangement that is best for the entire family. By working out your schedule ahead of time, you are able to focus on your relationship with your child during your parenting time rather than stressing about the logistics.