If I could give a new mom any piece of advice to make her life easier it would be: ROUTINE.
I have always been structured, even when my life was chaos I knew what was next and was quiet predictable for the most part. Thankfully this set an expectation for Holden from pregnancy. I am convinced he knew my predictable self from mealtimes, work schedules to bedtimes. I know this doesn't come naturally for everyone. I am thankful to be blessed with this natural capability. Now, when Holden's dad finally decided to come into his life we faced a great deal of sleep and behavioral issues.
Holden has always thrived in a structured environment. His dad does not live that type of lifestyle. I had initially created this for Holden to remind him what was next at an early age. Visuals help the little guys before they can talk. I have changed this a few times since initial creation to suit the changes Holden has needed. I also sent this with his dad in hopes of finding some equal ground on maintaining structure. Does it get followed? Probably not, but I tried. I always want to try to do what's in the best interest of Holden developmentally.
Five reasons why children need routine:
Now, even though I do my best to relay the most important information to Holden's dad in the brief 5 seconds I have with him before he takes Holden and leaves. I know it is likely everything I can relay in that short period is lost. Since his dad does not inquire with his school, daycare or even try to contact Holden out of his fly by the seat of his pants arrivals to see Holden I can't imagine he knows much about Holden's needs developmentally. Eric and I have tried our best attempt co-parenting to recreate the type of home we run when he goes to his dads. The value goes unseen.
Now, we focus on creating security around Holden's leaving and coming home. We ensure Holden knows the routine before he leaves. He knows the routine when he returns. He knows we come back on Sunday at 5:30pm not a second earlier, not a second later. He knows whether his dad shows up or not we are there and whatever was planned for after doesn't matter. Holden has priority. He knows his home family is predictable and safe.
I googled this and found nothing. Granted my son is young we do nothing to provoke this response to him going with his dad. We leave parenting discussions until the kids are in bed and never say anything terrible about his dad. My parents still do this to me today and it still hurts. I don't care their feelings I still love my parents.
FIRST, FIND OUT WHY?
If your child is old enough understanding “why” your child refuses to visit will help you be the parent and resolve the issue. Make sure you are not treating your child like a criminal asking questions that may hurt or feel too persistent. It may be best for younger children to use puppets or social stories.
25 WAYS TO HELP DEAL WITH YOUR CHILD REFUSING VISITATION:
Does it seem like you have tried everything to either prepare your child to go with the other parent or do you do everything you can to make an adjustment home all flowers, hearts and butterflies? Been there! Though we have a set routine now, a routine which generally works for my son because he functions best when he knows what's next like most children do, its never going to be fool proof.
What we have found works before leaving...
I feel it is best when our son knows what's coming if it is out of the ordinary. Since our son only leaves our home one weekend every third weekend I feel that this is "out of the ordinary", because he does not have a good prediction yet of that third weekend. We start on Wednesday with a breadcrumb. What I mean by this is I might drop a line briefly that he will be going to his dad's house for the weekend. Until recently I had no inclination what they would be doing so I couldn't get him excited in that respect for XYZ to be going on. Now, I do get some information, however, I choose now to not tease with what might be happening as I have heard from our son that sometimes those things don't happen. Which leads to disappointment (I like to protect in that sense. I personally would never tell our son we were going to do something then not unless due to behavior or outside circumstances.)
Then on Thursday, I would remind the breadcrumb and add the plan, reminding of the usual drop off time, pick up time, and location. On Friday's when he leaves I always try to get out of work early to spend sometime before he leaves as a family. Generally we would stick to the same routine as any other day. Get home have a lighter than dinner meal (so I know he has ate something good), take a bath, play a bit and then we head to the drop. Do I get push back? 80% of the time. I feel we provide him with a sense of security with a structure.
Another thing we have found is important to the transitions are ALL going to the drop off and ALL going to the pick up. Yes, this means loading everyone up an enduring the ride and the process together. I realize this is a headache, but supporting one another is what a family is and for best results both ways consistency of who is in the car even play a part.
We also use social stories to remind him that though things may be different, they will be the same when he returns. View a great representation of coming and going for a little below:
What we have found works when returning...
Consistency, structure and same expectations. No matter what I want our son to be able to know whats next. We slightly lower our expectations for about 2 days after return. Though we still expect the same listening skills and respect we may give a little grace on discipline as he recovers from an unstructured, fly by the set of his pants environment which can be exhausting. Our son comes home to a dinner or light snack to make sure his belly is full, a warm bath with fresh jammies and he gets to pick his movie. We play and cuddle. Since there is a bit of a struggle coming back to Eric (his step-dad, who has been in his life since 6 months) we really try to emphasize a strong bonding connection with bath-time and play between the two of them. A re-bonding if you will.
Why do we do ALL of this?
We encountered several behavioral issues with return from our son's dad's house. When we came to the realization we have no control over his environment when he leaves us. We have little information about what he is exposed to or what he does when he is gone. What we have came to terms with is we can control what he can expect from being home. We ensure a safe environment for him to share anything openly if he wants to talk, but do not press like a detective. Eventually he just shares and we listen. If there is an issue it is addressed directly with his dad after our son is in bed. Take time to understand what your child needs from you, because you can never control what the other side does after custody is in order.
There once was a day I spent around $4.20 close to everyday on visits to my beloved Caribou Coffee. I longed for the surprise special treat in the rim of my white chocolate mocha. I say surprise because you never really know if the barista would remember to put this fancy little chocolate covered espresso bean in the rim. After number crunching and with the realization I now have 3 children, work full time, push for additional side work through contracts, blogging and contributing to my local community I need my morning boost. This obsession to function was not ending for me anytime soon.
I was on a quest to make the most accurate replication of my morning beverage so I would not revert back to this delicious and costly obsession. I ordered a Ninja Coffee Bar from Amazon. A week later I returned it because though it made AMAZING coffee it was not going to make my mocha after picking and poking for information from my church barista. I knew I needed an actual espresso machine. After reading reviews the Nespresso espresso machine with frother was the right choice for me. I literally opened the package followed the run through instructions before use and the next morning in 3-4 minutes I had my homemade Caribou Coffee, a pump of white chocolate sauce with a delicious little treat in the rim of my mocha. Cheers to saving money, not waiting in line, and a yummy morning boost!