The behavior of parents has a great influence on the emotional adjustment of their children. This is especially true after the dissolution of a marriage. The following visitation guidelines have been found to be helpful in achieving meaningful visitation:
- Remember that the job of parents is to help their children grow into healthy, mature, stable adults. Children are not pawns in the struggle between husband and wife. You should approach visitation as a means of promoting your children's welfare, even though it may impinge on your own feelings or schedule or prerogatives.
- Remember visitation with the other parent normally and under the proper circumstances is needed and helpful to your child's development and future welfare.
- Visitation should be pleasant not only for the children, but for both parents. Visitation should help your children maintain a positive relationship with their visiting parent.
- The visits should not take place only in the children's home. The visiting parent may wish the children to visit in his or her home overnight or may want to plan an enjoyable outing.
- The question is often asked, "Should the father take the children to the girlfriend's house?" and sometimes the same question is asked about the mother. Visitation is a time for the parent and the children to be with each other, to enjoy each other and to maintain positive relationships. Having other people participate may dilute the parent/child experience during visitation. Also, it may appear to the children that the parent does not have time for them, and that he does not care enough to give them his undivided attention during visitation.
- Keep your visitation schedule and inform the other parent when you cannot keep an appointment. Not keeping a visit without notifying the other parent may be construed by the child as rejection.
- You may need to adjust the visitation schedule from time to time according to your children's age, health and interests.
- Frequently a father asks, "Why should I visit?" He is hurt, as his comments reveal; "I'm no longer needed; the wife has our home and my children." The visit is one of the few times that the father has personal contact with the children and for that reason it should be a meaningful visit for both the father and the children. Even though the parents have not been able to get along, the children still need both parents if they are to grow up in a normal way.
- Often a father questions where he will take the children on the visits and what he should plan in the way of amusement for them, particularly if they are young children. Activities may add to the pleasure of a visit, but most important of all is the father's involvement with the children. A giving of himself is more important than whatever material things he may give them.