Wait your turn, don’t cut in line, say please and thank you, don’t shout . . . each of us follow a basic etiquette in our day to day lives that keeps society running relatively smoothly. Likewise, visitations go much more smoothly when parents agree to adhere to a basic set of rules and courtesies:
What you should & shouldn’t do during child custody exchanges for visitation
- Be sure to give the other parent advance notice before any changes in your schedule. If you plan a vacation, let your ex know as soon as you have the dates established so that they can make any necessary adjustments.
- Always share changes in your address, home phone, cell phone or work numbers with your former spouse to ensure that they have a way to contact you should something arise.
- Do all you can to be there when you say you will and show up on time. This shows respect not only for your former spouse, but your kids as well. Children are hurt – sometimes quite deeply – when a parent shows up late for a visit or doesn’t show up at all. If you’re running late, call. In this era of cell phones and instant messaging, there is little excuse for not giving a courtesy call.
- Do ensure that your kids get any homework done that is needed. It’s not fair to take them Friday night and then dump them off on the other parent Sunday evening when your 5th-grader has a science project due at school the next day.
- Don’t start the habit of giving your child a gift every time you see them. Certainly don’t allow kids to blackmail a parent by refusing to visit or behave unless you buy them something. If you want to give your kids a treat or a present, that’s fine. Just don’t do it regularly or they’ll come to expect it and it begins to look more like a bribe. This isn’t good for either parent. It locks the one into an unhealthy parenting pattern and creates friction with the other, who ends up feeling like a scrooge for not being as indulgent.
- As a matter of common courtesy, parents should let the other parent know about other people the child will encounter during visitations, such as new romantic partners or friends and relatives, and whether the kids will be left with other people such as babysitters. All parents want to be kept in the loop about what goes on in the lives of their children. However, the other parent should also be aware that it’s not their right nor privilege to try and dictate who is or isn’t around the kids at the other parent’s house. If there are specific problems, you should bring this up and try to resolve them according to the guidelines established in chapter 17.
- On the same token, keep the other parent in the loop about what you plan to do or what goes on in the lives of the kids when they’re at your house.
- Coordinate with the other parent before taking the kids to see a new movie, buying them a Halloween costume, or doing something else that might interfere with what the other parent had been planning. Your ex might have really wanted to be the one to take them to that Disney movie she adored herself as a little girl, or maybe they had been planning a surprise for the kids with something else. Share these things between yourselves, so that each of you have the opportunity to do the special things with the kids that are most important to you, and aren’t always stepping on the toes of the other parent.
- Treat items that the other parent bought as you would your own. Yet on the same token, don’t make a big fuss about what you bought them versus what your partner bought. Kids will be kids, and sometimes articles of clothing or other items get stained, lost or destroyed.
- Be forgiving! Mistakes are going to happen. Schedules will conflict. Things will come up. If you’re at fault, apologize. And if you’re the other parent, accept this apology and move on without beating the issue to death.