Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you can do. However, that job can get even harder after a divorce. The divorce process is very stressful, and could possibly strain your relationships, including your relationship with your children. What’s more, child custody and visitation issues can impact your relationship with your child. It is inevitable that a divorce will affect the parent-child relationship in some way.
The hardest part of maintaining a parent-child relationship after divorce is getting used to the new custody and visitation arrangements. After divorce, one parent who was living in the home with the child and interacting with them on a daily basis suddenly has to live in another location, and only see their children in-person for a few days every couple of weeks, or every other weekend. When they do not see a parent often, children sometimes lose the ability to freely communicate with the noncustodial parent. It is important to remember that this is not because the child loves the noncustodial parent less, and it is not because of something the parent did wrong. Feeling less connected to the noncustodial parent is a normal feeling for children of divorce, especially for younger children.
It is a priority of noncustodial parents to make the transition between each parent’s homes as smooth and comfortable as possible for the child. In order to make your child feel comfortable, it is important that you do not interrogate your child about what is going on in the other parent’s home. If you try to have your child recite a play-by-play of their week, they will not feel at ease or relaxed at your house. Rather, you want to have a regular conversation with your child in order to bond with them.
It may be more difficult for a noncustodial parent to start a conversation with their child because they do not know what has been going on in their lives for the past several days. If you are having trouble getting a conversation going with your children, try the following conversation starters which child therapists agree help build relationship bridges while avoiding damaging “interrogation” territory:
- Tell me about your favorite teacher and what makes him or her your favorite?
- If you could go anywhere in the world for one week, where would you go and why?
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
- What’s your biggest accomplishment that you makes you feel proud of yourself?
These are just a few examples, but there are many fun, light conversation starters you can use that spark conversation, build the parent-child relationship, and avoid making your child feel uncomfortable. The most important thing to remember is that no matter what, children need adequate time to adjust to the divorce and to each home environment. Some might prefer quiet time following a visitation exchange, while others are more anxious to start conversation, because it lets them know that you missed them as much as they missed you. Every child responds differently to new situations, but no matter what, your child just wants to spend time with you.