Parenting is arguably one of the most difficult jobs on the planet, and attempting to face that job alone can seem even more daunting. Add into the equation a child custody and visitation arrangement, the odds that the prior parent-child relationship will survive fully intact can take a serious nose-dive.
When one parent who was typically in the home and interacting with his or her children on a daily basis is suddenly living in another location and maybe only seen in-person for two or three days every couple of weeks, children sometimes lose the ability to freely communicate with the now visiting-parent. This typically doesn't have anything to do with anything the parent has done wrong, but rather just a natural consequence of the child not seeing the parents every day.
It is important for noncustodial parents to try to make the transitions between homes as easy and comfortable for the child as possible. This means absolutely no interrogating the child about what their life has been like in the primary home or expecting the child to recite a play-by-play of their week.
It may seem awkward to start a conversation with your child when you may have no idea what they have been up to for the past several days. Here are some ideas for conversation starters which will help build relationship bridges, while avoiding the interrogations which child therapists agree are damaging for your child:
- Tell me about your favorite teacher and what makes him or her your favorite?
- If you could go anywhere in the world for one week, where would you go and why?
- If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
- What's your biggest accomplishment that you makes you feel proud of yourself?
These are just some examples, but you'll find many more here. Just remember, children need time to adjust to each home environment. Some children will be respond better with some quiet time following a visitation exchange, but others will be anxious to start conversations as it helps reassure them that you have been missing them as much as they have missed you.