Is every other week visitation making my children's life more difficult?
Hello. I have a question about how biweekly visitation affects my children. They've been going back and forth between homes every other week, for a week at a time since my divorce two years ago. They are 5 and 7 years old. It seemed like the best choice for them to get equal time with both parents, but I'm having serious doubts about the impact it's having on them. My 5 year old has difficulties paying attention to rules has this way of "not hearing" and is often "Wild" as his teacher puts it. I know to an extent this is typical five year old behavior. But his teacher is saying she thinks he could benefit from a year of preK and he will already be 6 in kindergarten! He is never like this at home. (Wild) He has no real interests in anything other than dress up, or video games. He is either pretending to be Captain Hook, Batman, or some other fantasy character. I'm wondering if it's a form of escape like reading was for me as a child. My 7 year old daughter seems to be having a decline in school as well. For example, she constantly has to bring class work home because she is too unfocused in school to finish. She has been writing me nasty letters about how she will kill me if she doesn't get her way, and yesterday told me she would rather be at her Dad's on Mothers day. We sat and talked about it and she told me that she doesn't get enough time with her Dad on his weeks because he works and goes to band practice all the time. I don't want to go into a rant about how poor of a person he is, because I know he loves them. But he does do some nasty things like using them as a tool to get back at me. We had a violent relationship, that was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. I never saw him hit our children. Neither of us had a father growing up and don't want our children to suffer through that. He always accused me of being vindictive and I was constantly trying to prove my self to him. Now I want to do what's best for my children, and everyone says they would be better off with me during the weeks, and just weekends or every other weekend at Dad's. I want this too, and I think they could benefit from a more structured organized lifestyle. However, I am paranoid that I would be making the wrong choice for them and I that I would be being "Vindictive". I need to understand how this may be affecting their lives, and I need an objective viewpoint. I can't find much in the way of research about this type of situation! If this is not a question you can help me with could you direct me somewhere I could find help? Thank you so much!
What would be best for your kids would probably be if you and their dad switch homes every other week. That way the kids get to live in the same place and all their "stuff" is there, their friends know where to reach them, etc.
I'm not being sarcastic at all, I promise. My son's best friend is 7th grade, he does a week here and a week there, and it's awful. Two different households, two different sets of rules, it's hard to remember where to find him, and he is kind of up in the air all the time. I'm being totally serious that if someone has to be burdened by this, it should be the parents instead of the kids.
The fact that this is such a TOTALLY preposterous suggestion to you is very telling. You'd HATE it. How do you think the kids feel?
I agree with RockRose. That would really stink. I certainly wouldn't want to do it.
While RR's suggestion would be best for the kids at this point, if there are girlfriends, boyfriends, new husband, new wife, other people's kids, new kids together, etc. involved, I can see where that would complicate such a visitation arrangement, as well as add to the stress your children are experiencing.
But, I don't know how you expect to get your ex (who thinks you're vindictive) to agree to not seeing his children as often or even if that would be good for his kids, since your daughter seems angry that she doesn't see him often enough as it is. Not sure how cutting back his visitation would help with that.
Even though it seems to be so common in joint custody to split the visitation into alternating weeks, in reality this is way too hard on young children. They deserve to have a sense of belonging and ONE home, with a consistent environment, friends, activities. To achieve that, it is easier if the parents decide on one primary caregiver - the mother or the father - who the children live with and the other parent is something like a "bonus feature", sounds discriminating, I know, but it`s not. The time with the "secondary" caregiver just has to be long enough so he or she can maintain a close bond with the children. This kind of arrangement requires both parents to agree on their roles ahead of time but it really helps to prevent power games and playing favorites later on. I am sure that your kids are unfocused in school settings because there is so much to figure out for them. To figure out where they belong, to figure out which rules are valid and where they will be in future and how much say they will have in it. Once the children`s sense of belonging to one household is established, they will likely feel more settled. From that secure position it is easier for them to get used to two households and eventually both parents can have equal time with them again. To me, when judging it through my son`s eyes, a block of one week seems either too long to take it as "just a short while away from home" or too short to seriously live through all kinds of emotions and experiences with the other parent. There are all kinds of visitation models that you can find by googling "Family Law" and "visitation" and I noticed once that some of them alternate between short-and-long visitation blocks.
The main idea should be though to listen to your children`s feelings. And if your daughter wishes to spend more time with her Dad, I would definitely let her. She may currently be saying this out of opposition but regardless, she needs to feel that she is being heard and understood.
I was already a teenager when my parents separated but still remember how confused I was about my role in the whole situation. I remember trying to focus on homework but my head kept hammering "I can not think about math now, I need to understand my family first", day after day. Luckily my mother signed me up with a psychologist so I had a neutral person to talk to once in a while. I can just imagine how confused young children must feel. My son has a special travel backpack with all his favorite items that will make him feel home away from home, but even after only two days of absence when he comes home, he spends at least two hours checking every plant, every toy, every piece of furniture and gives every stuffed animal a kiss saying: "I am back, did you miss me?" Anything longer than two days in a row has made him resentful, angry and restless. He is 6.
I have 50/50 placement with my son's father. I have my son Sunday night through Wednesday. His dad picks him up on Weds. & has him until Friday & then we alternate weekends. That way he gets to see both of us during the week. He ends up with more time with me because dad always drops him off here in the mornings before school, so it works out better for me. But I've been doing this for 7 years & it works very well. My son adjusted better than I thought he would. There's no way I could do the week on, week off thing. Good luck to ya.
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