How to Avoid Emotional Side Effects During and After Father Visitation on Kids?

Updated on April 07, 2010
A.E. asks from Orlando, FL
12 answers

I have a huge concern about my kids emotional statuse. I have been seprated with their father for about 4 months now. He has some set visitation that we used to follow but since a month ago we altered it a little. We are now seeing him more often and going out with him, he visit us in our home. Arguments started to take place again in front of the kids which they are very bothered with i started to dislike his presence with me again or going out with him and the kids because of many reasons one of which he takes the role of the mom and dad at the same time while me being there and that irritiates me tremendously. The father calls me 3 or 4 times a day and just wants to stay close in relationship with us and trys to visit every night claiming he wants to see his kids and then he stays for supper but when he leaves which is very late sometimes at 10 pm and he has to put them in bed which he never did any of that when we were together or at least cared for it.
My little ones 3 and 18 months old start crying, and wake up in the middle of the night and my son wet his bed while asleep unusualy. when I discussed this with the father, he still insists on seeing them, although he left us for 3 months in the past without any contact or support till he was ordered by court. Now he wants to see them and excersice his rights. When they used to visit him on the schedual, they came back from the long 4 day visitation every other week wild, hungry, sleep for unusal long hours for a nap, extremly hyper and active, bowel movement changes, bad words, angry, crying whining alot, major change in sleep pattern. It takes me 3 days to correct and aligne everything back to normal. So we decided to eliminate some of the nights between me and him so they stay with me longer, but he is started to appear alot in our apartment and creating a lot of unneseccary scenes in front of them which led to other emotional and behaivioral problems, some of which my little one would hit me and refuse me taking care of her, my son became disrespectful to me and rebelious on all rules, and alot of unexplained sudden crying.
I have no intrest to see the father and not looking forward for that, I do not want to have my kids %100 and I still want their father in their lives but I don't know how to figuer this puzzel of having him around them and with them but without any side effects?

Please help us if you have any suggestions.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for everyones input, I really appreciated it, I have used some of your suggestions and acted up on them this morning. I have informed the father, that I will have very minimal contact with him meaning he will not come visit us in our home as he wishs, because I don't want any disturbances for the kids, and I want to keep them on their normal schedual. He will have them as the court ordered 4 days every other week and one night on the other week. By minimizing contact I am minimizing the arguments and fights in front of my children. I will tell you more of what happened because I know he doesn't like it that way at all and he is going to try to sneak in again in some other ways by suggesting of going on travel or to the beach or any other ways so he is in control again. He has his very unique ways and very clever in doing them.
Thanks again for every one you really helped me with your suggestions.

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answers from Tampa on

Personally I think you need to talk to a lawyer about all of this and get things changed right away. It is not healthy for you or the kids. Also I would not be feeding him supper at all. I moved from Michigan here to Florida when my girls were small to get them away from their crazy Dad and they are very thankful today that I did. They say they are proud of me for standing up for them and getting them away from their Dad and in a safe and healthy place. The kids have to come first at all costs. If they are swearing and hitting then they have to be seeing their father doing these things. Do what's best for the kids no matter what. Get help now!

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answers from Austin on

Children want and need structure. As their primary caregiver it is up to you to give this to them. They just do not do well with changes all of the time. Find a schedule that works for you and your children and stick with it.

Allow the court order to guide this so that they know on such and such day of the week they see dad at whatever time and then come home at whatever time, and stick with this. Get a calendar for the kids and use pictures to show them what the schedule is.

Figure out a way to communicate with your EX husband that does not include yelling. "I am not able to speak to you about this in front of the children." "Please email me with this information, so I can concentrate on what you are saying." "I understand you are concerned about this, but I do not want to take up your visitation time with the children discussing this, so send me the information or you and I can schedule a time to discuss this."
" I am sorry but drop ins are too stressful for the children." "the children need to be kept on their schedule."

IF every once in a while (maybe once a month) some big event comes up and things will be really different. Start preparing your kids. They will need to be prepared and know what is going to happen and how it will affect them. They will also do better if you give them some control.

"On Saturday we are going to the art festival all day. If you get tired, I will have the wagon so you can sleep while we are out." "we will be driving for a long time so we can go to grandmas on Sunday." "Think about what car toys you want to take. What kind of snacks you would like. " Remember you will need to use your inside voices and if you get frustrated remember to use your words. "

I was a child of divorce and it was awful and not pretty. I dreaded any interaction between my parents because it just did not end well. My father would be seething and my mother would be in tears.. It made me nervous and very uneasy whenever they were in the same area.

Give your children peaceful and respectful parents (at least in front of them). Show them proper behavior. Show them the "Best practices" in parenting. They need to feel safe with their own parents and not feel like they are in a war zone.

Always try to do your best so you never have any regrets.

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answers from Honolulu on

In addition to the other great suggestions... when a friend of ours got "divorced"... she got counseling for her 2 kids. She said it was the BEST thing she could have done for them, as a new/now single parent.
The thing is, there will be difficulties... many of which falls upon a child and their getting adjusted to everything, including behavioral problems that arises in the aftermath. Thus, counseling provides the children with a way for you and the children to cope.
It helps them... and provides them with a "neutral" place/person to vent or express themselves and just to cope.

If you can afford it or find a counselor that will work with your kids on a sliding scale... I would really recommend that.

Our friend said, it helped her kids IMMENSELY. They were about the age of your kids.
Kids cannot do it on their own... they are too young to handle this kind of thing. And, the parents are often too busy dealing with their own problems with each other and conflicts and the legalities of it. So, the kids and their problems with it... are marginalized. Kids need help... more than what a parent can do. Thus counseling.

And as for his "appearing" at your place... does he STILL have the house keys to your place? Maybe he shouldn't?
All the best,

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answers from Savannah on

Keep visitation outside of your home and let it be him with the kids, not yourself too. I made the similar mistake with my daughter's father and he thought that it meant I was still interested in keeping a 'relationship' with him and I sure as heck wasn't. I was more concerned about my child's safety while with him.

No matter what, especially at a young age, the children are going to have a hard time adjusting to the separation. There is no way around it. My daughter was 6 months when I left her dad, 3yrs old when I moved 900 miles to be with my hubby and now at almost 10yrs old, it still effects her from time to time but it's because of his lack of phone calls and interest in her life that bothers her. All you can do as a parent is love your children and never talk bad about their father in front of them.

Good luck

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answers from Kansas City on

i know normally you are the one asking the questions and we should answer, but reading your post all i could think was, "why are you letting him do this to them?" we can't help you. you're allowing this. he should be visiting the kids, not you, not his former home. stick to the court ordered visitation that is on paper. you're basically screwing with their heads, daddy's going to be here to put you to bed - oops, but not if you wake up in the night. oh and we're going to keep fighting in front of you for good measure. just stop it. stick to a routine that the kids can count on. they visit him, they live with you. quit complicating things, that is why they're freaking out.

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answers from Orlando on

I just wanted to add that to your children, their father is AS important as you are. The behaviors you are seeing are likely not because they are seeing their father, but because they aren't living with their father anymore. Seeing him is good and between the two of you is what causes the behavioral changes.

We live in a society that seems to think moms are more important to kids and thus should have more rights to them. From a kid's perspective, both parents are equally important, especially at a young age when they know no different.

So, don't blame the behavioral issues on the fact that they are seeing their dad....blame the behavioral issues on the fact that they have to leave their dad after a visit. I agree that counseling is the best idea for this situation. Preventing your children from having a normal and frequent relationship with their dad will likely backfire on you later on.

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answers from Denver on

First of all, there is not, nor will there ever be a state free of side effects in this situation. Children are very sensitive to changes in routines, environments, rules, surroundings, etc. It is just an unfortunate fact of join custody that no matter what you do, the kids are going to spend a few days around every transition testing boundaries, breaking rules, feeling out of sorts, and otherwise demonstrating symptoms of stress. They do the same thing when they visit your ex, too.

It is part of how children cope with this difficult situation. That said, though, there are things you can do to make it less difficult and more successful. Most of those things revolve around making sure that as much as humanly possible in their lives if familiar and routine. Making sure they have their favorite pjs, favorite toy, favorite rituals related to bed times, etc all happening with absolute consistency will make it easier for the kids to predict their lives and feel less out of sorts.

As another poster said, you also need to find a way to not be baited by the ex and express some boundaries that you stick to even when that is uncomfortable, without being willing to fight with him.

If it is your preference that you be present for a lot of his parenting time, then you need to find ways to distract yourself and refuse to take him personally during that time, reminding yourself that even if he is being a jerk in some way, your reason for being there is for your kids, and you don't have to take his bait. Let him play mom too if he wants to. Sit and read a book and ignore him unless he crosses an actual health or safety line of some kind.

Make sure that he has no key to your home, and get the caller ID suggested. If you have trouble negotiating without fighting with him, pick a time when he won't be home to leave him a message with the days and times he's welcome to come by and a statement that your home will not be available to him at other than those times, as you are currently attempting to stabilize the routine for the children.

As another person said, it would be best if you were adhering to a court appointed routine of some kind. If the initial arrangement that went with your divorce wasn't clear, or sufficient, get it rectified either through lawyers or mediators so that you have something concrete to point to as the rules of visitation.

It will make it easier to stand up for your boundaries as well as leaving him no room to say that legally speaking, you are being unfair in any way.

But at the end of the day, you need to find the strength inside yourself to fail to be baited, to busy yourself with other things in the vicinity of your kids, without engaging him, and without taking it personally that he's being a doofus. He's testing your boundaries as much as the kids are. He is trying to find all the places he can walk right through them, either to get a reaction, to get back in your life, or to prove to himself that he's a good father.

Whatever his reasons, positive or negative, you need to firm up your boundaries while not being willing to fight. Don't take his calls. Don't answer the door when it's not his day to visit. If you have to, threaten with calling the police as calmly and respectfully as you can if he's turned down your insistence that it is time he leave for the night. Just say "Bob, I need you to leave. It is their bed time and we are working to establish consistent routines." If he blows it off, calmly say "Bob, I won't ask again. It is time for you to go. I would prefer not to need to do so, but if necessary, I will call the police to enforce this boundary in our lives. I would rather us handle this in a friendly way that respects eachother's boundaries, but I will do whatever I have to either way. Please go now."

Usually it only takes a very small handful of times of proving to his brain that you're serious, to get him to take your requests and boundaries more seriously. But you have to refuse to debate them or back down from them in order to make it work. Don't justify yourself or your actions beyond the single statement of intent to establish routines or whatever it is. He has a right to understand why. He does not have a right to argue with it if the limits you're setting are within the court designated rules between you.

If you argue with him, no matter how extremely irritating he's being, he wins because he's asserting power over you by getting you to fight. This is part of why it is so critical that you not fight, just defend your boundaries calmly. Don't give him the impression that he has power over you by arguing about anything with him, and he will tend to test what other power he might assert, less, which will also make other things easier.

Unless you are really worried about their health or safety, under most circumstances, you're better off not trying to share time with the ex and the kids. All those reasons you got a divorce are still there. Yes, the kids will have some insane transition time, which will be frustrating. But it will exist no matter how you handle this problem. And it would be less stressful for everyone for there not to be tension between the two of you through the whole visit. And it helps to clarify for the kids which rules apply where and when, so they feel a little less helplessly adrift on a sea of change.

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answers from New York on

Is there someone you could go to thru family services or somewhere like that where you could have some help or some backing in setting up a designated visitation schedule. It's all well and good that he now wants to partake in the father role after he's out of the house, but where does that leave you. Are you not supposed to do the things you enjoy and all just because of his guilt. Is he trying to get back into the family picture by doing all of this. Because it takes more then just tucking your children into bed to accomplish that. My heart goes out to you b/c i'm sure it has to be hard, especially w/the arguing and all. I would honestly seek the help of a professional that way it doesn't seem like it's all you doing this, but this way you would have the support of another who may make him understand things a little better. Good luck!

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answers from New York on

My experience as a case worker for kids in foster care is that visits and going from one home to another are almost always disruptive in some way. Sometimes the best you can do is have a schedule and prepare your kids for when they have visits. Maybe their father can try calling calling at the same time on days he isn't visiting so it is part of the daily routine. It can be really hard to work things out with someone you are not longer with but the more you can be consistent as parents the better for the kids. Toddlers really thrive on routines and they are usually to young to say in words why they are upset and acting up. If you can, talk to their father calmly and not in front of the kids so you can be as much on the same page as possible.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that you go back to following the court order. I'm not sure that you have one but in looking back at your questions you may. If not, go to court to get one. Before the judge orders visitation/parenting time he can ask that all of you talk with a counselor who will make a recommendation. I suggest this because it sounds like your ex does not listen to you.

It is important for the children to have a consistent schedule. It will help if you know when time with their father will be and can talk with them about what to expect and when they'll be back Then you will also have specific times during which you will have to deal with their changed behavior and make plans for what to do then.

I suggest that it is very important to adhere to a specific bedtime, mealtime, and nap time no matter what is happening. Having their father there during some bedtimes is disruptive. It sounds like because he's in and out that you aren't able to have a routine.

If you're unsure of how to be assertive, do some reading and talk with a counselor so that you can decide on your routine and then enforce it. This is your home. You do not have to let him in, nor do you have to talk with him once he's gotten in. I suggest you change the locks; that you get caller ID so that you don't have to answer the phone when he's calling. And tell him that he can visit with the kids on the schedule stated in the agreement.

You can't do all of this at once. Pick a place to start. I'd start with getting a court order outlining when he's to have parenting time. At the same time I'd ask for an appointment with an mediator. Oregon courts have them on staff. Before that appointment, write down what you want from your ex. Be firm. Allow for some leeway so that you can compromise some. That means ask for more than you're willing to settle for.

In the meantime, tell your ex that he is not to spend any more time at your house or tell him what day and what time he can visit. Tell him that he is to leave by a certain time. Arrive no earlier than a certain time. Put it in writing. If he doesn't leave, call the police. DO NOT ARGUE WITH HIM.

I'm assuming that the house/apartment is in your name only. If not. get that changed first.

I know it's difficult to not get hooked by him but do not argue with him. Say I want you to leave now. Perhaps repeat it a couple of times but no more. Then call the police.

Or, you can not go so far as calling the police if you're able to stop yourself from arguing with him and want to wait until you get an order or are able to discuss this with him and a mediator. I had to learn how to do this and found it works best if I focus on something else. Go about doing the dishes or picking up the house. Sit down with a magazine. Watch TV. Tell him that you are not going to talk with him and stick with it. This is very difficult. Sounds like he baits you.

If you truly don't want to see him, tell him so and don't let him in the house. Or if you want him to visit with the children in your house, you plan to do something else. Go into another room or even leave for an hour. But do not spend time with him. When you do talk with him even when it's arguing he reasonably thinks that you want to be with him. Or he wants to make your life miserable in retaliation. Don't play his game.

There will not be so many side effects if you have a routine schedule and stick with it. A eat, nap, sleep schedule at home and a schedule for when he spends time with the kids. You will still have side effects but with time you'll find a way to deal with them. It is especially important to not have arguments with your ex. When he insists on a fighting in your house do not let him into your house.

You have to be very clear about what you are willing and not willing to do. It will help you and him if you write those expectations down. Then stick with them. Do not give in sometimes. Treat the whole discussion as this is the way it is. Direct and unwavering.

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answers from Miami on

Who is your case worker, Judge or attorney.
You don't say if you are working outside of the house, or if the father has a job.
The children are way too young to be taken by their father into an unknown habitat. You didn't mention the location of his apartment either.
You don't want them 100% of the time? Their visits with their father should and must be in your presence. They are TOO YOUNG to be out of your sight.

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answers from Miami on

you need to made a "calendar visit planner" put in a calender every little detail you want your kids know about when there going to see their father and how many time that will be .... sit (even you dont want) with the father and the kids and make the calender can put in there too what activities they are going to get to do the days with him and where will be the visit. but you have to make a big sacrifice and let the father participate in the "visit planner" so he could say what works for him or not.
if the you make these family reunion planner they also are going to understand when they are going to see him and when not. Try to keep things with their father in the best way and fight in a place that they are not present like in a park, cause if your kids are missing him and they start to feel that you are the one that keep him apart with the fighting and the screaming going to be in problem sooner or later, and they are going to start hating you. so try to be a "happy family" in front of them and leave the bad-feeling for later.

i hope this works for you and your kids. i've seen it work with other families.

good luck

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