1. See Your Child Regularly
To have a strong relationship with your child, you need to spend time with the child regularly. The best way to do that is for both parents to work out a plan for visits. If you can't talk without fighting, ask for assistance from a family service agency, religious organization, community group or the court.
2. Understand Your Child's Developmental Level
Understanding your child's development stage will let you have more fun together!
Things you need to understand include:
- The supervision your child needs. All kids need to be supervised, but babies and toddlers must be watched constantly
- How often and how long you are together. Babies do better with frequent, short visits. School-age children may be ready for overnights. Teens are often busy, so be flexible in planning time together.
- Your child's level of understanding. Young children need simple instructions and many reminders. But every child is different and needs a different amount of adult help.
- What you do together. Young children love to play with their parents, older children often like sports, trips or long-term projects.
- What to bring on visits. Younger children may need diaper bags and bottles, while older children may just need a coat. Whatever your child's age, don't forget about car seats, seat belts and emergency telephone numbers.
3. Ask the Other Parent
Sharing information will help both of you to be good parents. You can update each other about your child's likes, needs and special issues such as medicine, allergies or behavior problems. You can discuss issues that come up during visits.
4. Make Pickups and Drop-offs Easier
Transitions will be smoother if you follow four basic rules:
- Be prepared. Parent with the child - have the child ready. That means dressed, rested, fed and waiting with a package of things she will need while with the other parent, such as a change of cloths or medicines.
- Be punctual. Parent picking up the child - show up on time. Being late will hurt your child's feelings and is inconsiderate to the other parent.
- Keep it simple. Both parents - interactions with your child's other parent will be easier if you don't involve other people in phone calls, pickups or drop-offs (except for someone you have both agreed should be there).
- Be polite. Both parents - no matter what your feelings are for each other, practice basic courtesy.
5. Set Limits
Your child wants to know how to behave. When you spend time together, explain what is expected. Praise good behavior and try to modify behavior when the child doesn't follow the rules. Don't yell, belittle or hit. Instead use time-outs or redirect your child to another activity.
6. Spend Time, Not Money
What matters to your child is that you are spending time together. What doesn't matter is spending a lot of money. Your child will probably remember shooting baskets, making a meal together or listening to your stories a lot longer than a new toy or a trip to a restaurant.
7. Strike a Balance
Your child needs time alone with you, in addition to group activities with you and your friends, your new partner, or your new family. Try to balance both kinds of time when planning your visits.
8. Do Something Fun
Choose an activity you both like. This could be something as simple as reading a book or going to the park. Or it could be a trip to the zoo, beach or an event. You should also make time for everyday parenting activities such as helping with homework and going to appointments.
*These are general guidelines, so not everything may fit your situation. This is especially true if there is a history of unsafe behavior during visits, high conflict between the parents, or domestic violence. In these cases, the court may need to make recommendations about how to set up the visits to keep everyone safe.