Tag Archives: visitation

Re-Entry Strategies After An Extended Visitation

My son returned after his annual 8-week visit with my ex this past week.  Watching him walk down the jet bridge, I could already tell he was taller and had gotten a healthy dose of sunshine.

I never quite know what to expect after such a long visit, but he greeted me with the usual smile and bear hug.

My boy was home.

After signing some papers for the airline, we were on our way.  He had his carryon suitcase and began telling stories of fishing and fun.

Over the years, we have had variations on the “re-entry” after a stay with his mom.  I suspect the same holds true for you.

NASA - NASA http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/entry_br.html http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/hires/entry.jpg atmosperic entry of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) aeroshell, artistic rendition

NASA – NASA http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/entry_br.html http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/hires/entry.jpg
atmosperic entry of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) aeroshell, artistic rendition

This time, my son declared he does not get to see his mom enough.  I told him I understood how he felt and reminded him he would be going back two more times this year…for fall break and for Christmas.

He thought a moment and smiled and said he was glad he would get to see her.  And as quickly as he raised the subject, he was on to the next.

Like years past, we have been able to take a short trip immediately upon his return.  Before I got remarried, we would typically go visit my family (including his two cousins – both boys one of whom is a year older and one a year younger).  This year, we went with the blended family to Disneyland and Universal Studios for my son’s first visit ever to either.

So far, the transition has gone smoothly and he has adapted well to the old surroundings, stepbrothers, puppies, and rules.  Here are some best guesses as to why it has gone relatively smoothly:

  • I have consistently reminded him to contact his mom.  While he needs to be reminded to call every once in a while, he also needs to know I believe it is important for him to maintain contact with her.  This helps him understand the importance of regular contact…not just visitations.
  • I do not ask 20 questions about his trip.  As much as i would like to know every detail of his summer and how things are going with his mom, I give him the freedom to share what he wants to share and only ask general questions.  When he wants to talk, I listen and ask normal follow up questions.  I have found letting him share his summer stories at his pace works much better than quizzing.
  • I try to keep everything normal.  Consistency and familiarity seem to work best for my son.  I suspect your kids would also respond well to coming home to normalcy.  A few years ago, my son came home to a new rental home when we were subject to a burglary/arson.  Trying to maintain normalcy when most of his toys, clothes and furniture were destroyed was a challenge and taught me the importance of routine and comfort in situations where things change.

What traditions or routines do you use when your kids return from an extended visitation with your ex?

When Custody Handoffs Go Wrong

My son was booked on a flight home from visitation with his mom this past Friday.

After a series of unrelated texts, I realized my son was not enroute and on a layover, but was instead still at his mom’s house.  Packed and ready to go.

Photo Credit: Frank Spee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Frank Spee via Compfight cc

My ex apologized for the oversight (looking at the departure time from the layover city instead of origination city) and I started the rebooking process.

Fortunately, American Airlines quickly rebooked him for the following day and I did not have to pay any additional fees.  He arrived safely on Saturday evening.

How would you have reacted in this situation?  What would you have texted or emailed to your ex?

Within moments of finding out my son would not be home Friday evening, I cycled through several emotions, but once I caught my breath, the logical side of me kicked in and I went into problem-solving mode.  How do I explain this to the airline?  Will I need to use more miles/pay a fee?  What if he cannot get home until Sunday or Monday with all the holiday travel?

The emotional response quickly gave way to problem-solving.

Unless your ex habitually violates custody agreements (in which case you should reach out to your parenting coordinator, lawyer, therapist…whoever can help remedy the behavior), it is best to go through your emotional response before unloading on your ex.  Doing so would only add to the stress for you and your kid.

For the occasional hiccup, remember parenting (and co-parenting) is a marathon and showing some flexibility will diffuse a bad situation rather than escalate it.

Again, if your ex has a habit of doing this or does so with malice or no remorse, I would recommend seeking outside counsel to correct the behavior rather than go it alone and risking an emotional escalation with no custodial resolution.

Has your ex accidentally or deliberately violated your custody agreement?  What have you found to be the best way to approach these situations?

Saying Goodbye To My Son

In a few days, I will walk my son down to the American Airlines gate and say goodbye to him for the summer.  The time has come for his annual, eight-week summer visitation with my ex.

Photo Credit: Roberto Trm via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Roberto Trm via Compfight cc

For nearly five years, I have traveled with him each time he flew, but this year he will fly alone at his request.  The airline charges an additional $300 round trip to accommodate him, and he will have someone with him at all times while negotiating the gate changes.  But it is a milestone nonetheless.

I have a love/hate relationship with this particular visit to see his mom.

I love the opportunity to catch my breath, to do a little less laundry, to read a little more, and to catch up with some friends I do not often see.

I hate not having him near, not playing with him, not tucking him into bed, not hanging out with my son for two months.

I know he wants and needs time with his mom, and understand how critically important it is for him to connect with maternal grandparents and relatives beyond phone calls or FaceTime sessions.

I know I will soon be the one on the other end of the phone or iPad for those brief moments to talk and tell each other what we have been doing during the summer.

I know how quickly eight weeks can fly by, but also know how long the walk will be from the American Airlines gate to my truck in the garage.  I know I will cry.

You may face a similar circumstance this summer or at some point – a time when you have to say goodbye to your kids so they can be with your ex or with her family.

During these times, consider the following:

Your kids did not choose this separation from their mom and they long for that connection.  Do not let those natural feelings they may share with you intimidate or make you feel like less of a father.

Allow your kids to be with their mom without guilt.  If we try to manipulate our kids so they will want to be with us instead of mom, it will backfire.  Again, I do not have a double-blind placebo study to back up that statement, but common sense tells me it is true.

Ask your kids how you should communicate with them while they are away.  I have made it a practice to ask my son how often he would like me to call or FaceTime.  In the past, I have smothered him, but learned over time the value of finding a balance with him.  Each child will have different communication needs, so let them tell you what they desire and find a balance.

When you walk by their empty bedrooms, express gratitude for being a dad.  When your kids return home, your grateful attitude will help ease their potentially rocky transition.

I can’t wait for you to come back home, son.

How do you prepare for an extended time away from your kids?  How do you prepare them for an extended time away?