The struggle over visitation time can be intense and painful and can cause much stress amongst parents of divorce. Fighting for time with our kids can start out with good intentions then over time become a game of tug-of-war. Parents can become very controlling over “their” time and it can cause a lot of hurt and stress for children. It is incredibly difficult to have to share your kids especially with someone who might have hurt you deeply. It is certainly one of the most painful parts of divorce.
Something that commonly happens is, the child finds out that there is a fun event coming up with one parent’s side of the family. Unfortunately, it is the other parent’s weekend. Conflict often ensues and the child is quickly in the middle. Some children are so afraid of making the other parent mad, they do not even mention the possibility of going and instead feel hurt, upset and hopeless because they are going to miss time with people they love. Is this something that you can relate to?
Children may be missing out on important events purely because of a power struggle between the parents. NO ONE WINS when this happens. Years from now, the child may see a photo of the event he missed and he will remember, that was the time my parents fought over me and I did not get to go. The urge to “win” the battle can be strong. But in the end, there are no winners and the child loses.
When I was growing up, I went to my dad’s house every other weekend. When I got to high school, I was so busy with events, I really did not have time to go that often. I am so thankful for my dad’s flexibility. Even though I did not see him every other weekend, he often stopped by the school and we went to lunch. He and my stepmom also went to all of my events and I spent Sundays with them as often as I could. I know it broke his heart not to see me as much. However, he and I had an excellent relationship through high school and college and even now. I cannot help but wonder how hard our relationship would have been if he had forced me to go every other weekend just because it was “his” time. He lived 30 minutes away and I would have felt grounded from my friends and it would have made it hard for me to attend all of my athletic events. Instead, he was flexible and I believe it kept our relationship close as I navigated high school.
Divorce is tricky and comes with a lot of hurt and history. Although it may be hard, it is important to remove ourselves enough from the situation to try to look objectively at things when they come up. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Is my child afraid to ask me about upcoming events for fear of making me mad? If the answer is yes, it is important to sit down with them, apologize, and then be open if something comes up in the future.
Was the upcoming event intentionally booked during my time? Even if it was, is this something my child would be sad to miss?
Is there a way I can be flexible to allow my child the opportunity to go?
Is my anger toward my ex influencing my decision?
Keep in mind that parenting is not a sprint but a marathon. Is keeping your child home from an event because it is your weekend worth the hurt that it might cause your child long term? They likely will not remember what you did together but will instead remember that they missed an event because it was on the wrong weekend.
There can be times when a parent oversteps boundaries and consistently plans things during another’s visitation time. During those times, you may need to say no to maintain the schedule. It is important to listen to your heart and keep your child’s best interest in mind. Navigating situations like this is never easy.
If you find that negotiating with your ex feels impossible, it might be time to come in and see us. We can help with co-parenting. If your ex is not willing to come, it can still be helpful to come in and sort out some of the anger and frustration you may be feeling. We are here to support you as you navigate the difficulty of co-parenting. Hurt and resentment can be strong motivators of control however, it is important to work toward forgiveness so that your child can have peace and not feel stuck in the middle.
Often times, it feels as if there is no right answer. Dondi Gesick can help you navigate through the rough waters of divorce and blended families. Dondi sees clients in Greeley and Fort Collins. Click here to make an appointment.