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7 things not to do during visitation with your kids

You and your ex were together for 10 years before getting divorced. You have two kids together, so you know that even ending your marriage doesn't mean you won't see each other going forward. The kids will always be a link that you share. They live with your ex, but you have visitation rights and will spend a significant amount of time with them.

As you work out your parenting plan and move forward into this next stage in your life, you may put a lot of thought into what you want to do with your kids, how you can keep your relationships strong. That's terrific, but you must also remember what not to do. Below are a few examples.

  1. Don't shut down all communication with your ex. Be open and available. You must work together when planning and scheduling, and refusing to talk to your ex can make this a mess. It's the children who suffer most when this happens.
  2. Don't be unreliable. Know the schedule and stick to it. Show up on time, every time.
  3. Don't fight over who gets to be the “favorite” parent. Don't talk down about your ex or try to buy the kids off with presents.
  4. Don't put the children in the middle. For instance, don't try to guilt a child into spending more time with you or make that child feel bad to spend time with your ex. Don't relay messages through the children or interrogate them to spy on your former spouse. Keep your own issues between the two of you.
  5. Don't fight in front of the kids. This is similar to the above, but deals with even more contentious relationships. Keep your emotions in check and argue on your own time. Don't stress the kids out or make them deal with your disagreements.
  6. Don't take anything out on the kids. Maybe you had a disagreement with your ex and you're feeling angry about it before meeting the children for the scheduled visitation. Don't show up late, ignore the kids, or act differently toward them in any way just to punish them. It's not their fault and they deserve inviting, loving relationships with both of you, even when you don't get along.
  7. Don't be overzealous or stressed out. Visitation should be fun and relaxing. You don't have to schedule in every single activity that you can think of. Just focus on spending time with your kids, even if you're not doing anything specific. They just want to be with you and forge a close bond to you, which is sometimes easier when you're just relaxing at the house, rather than trying to cram in activities and events.

Of course, every situation is different, but the issues noted above give you a good starting point, and they can help you remember that visitation and parental rights are more than just legal matters. They're the basis for your new style of family life. When handled properly, with the children's best interests in mind, relationships can stay strong after divorce.

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