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Which continent has the highest population density?
Summer is in full swing – what are your kids doing this summer?
Is it about the Parents “my time” or the Children’s Time when thinking about Child Custody?
Too many parents get so wrapped up in “my time” with their children, rather than think about their “children’s time.” Many parents count the days, minutes, seconds to ensure they are receiving their ‘fair’ share of parenting time with their children, rather than focusing on what is ‘best’ for their children. In fact this applies to parents who share children equally and to parents that have more or less time. STOP! Children are not counting the days, hours, minutes, or seconds they are sharing with either parent; they are enjoying quality time with both of their parents. Children love both parents, and regardless of how much they see each parent, children want to feel free to have friends, play sports, be involved with school, church, etc., and be a kid. Children ‘should’ not need to worry whether Parent A is not receiving what parent A feels is their fair share of ‘time.’ In fact children have developmental milestones where friends, extra curricular activities, sports, and other stuff become their priority, and want their parents support and love during these times. Children do not want their parents fighting over ‘time’, or who the better parent is, children want to be kids and explore their options; just as if this were a nuclear family.
Johnny is 10 years old and in fourth grade. His parents have been divorced for three years, and fighting in court for the past two years about custody. Johnny loves both his parents, and looks forward to seeing both. His parents have equal shared parenting, however, his mother refuses to allow Johnny to attend his baseball games during her residential time because the father is the assistant coach on the team and feels that three practices a week, and one game per week is too much. The mother didn’t outwardly say this to Johnny, she said “Johnny, don’t you want to go swimming with your cousins and play rather than play in your baseball game?” Johnny is thinking silently that he loves baseball and doesn’t want to miss his game, however, he wants to please his mom, so he tells her, “go swimming.” The mother feels validated that Johnny doesn’t want to play his baseball game or attend practices, and tells the father that during ‘her time’ she will decide what is best for Johnny. The father feels the mother is purposefully keeping Johnny away from sports and other activities that are directly or indirectly related to the father.
Kayleigh (12) and John (7) live with their mother during the week, and their father every other weekend. Both Kayleigh and John play sports, and most recently Kayleigh was selected to play select soccer, which involves many hours of practices, games away, and tournaments. The mother takes both kids to their practices during the week, however, the father has made it clear that this is ‘his time’ and he will not ‘promise’ to take either of them to their sports. In fact he blames the mother for ‘infringing’ on his time and trying to get the kids to ‘dislike him.’ He refuses to partake in the children’s sports, and this has caused both kids, especially Kayleigh a lot of frustration and sadness because she has to sit during the games she does make it to because the coach expects the players to be at practices and games. Kayleigh has lost some friends due to this because they do not understand why she is not at the games, and they feel she is letting the team down. Kayleigh feels she has to chose soccer or spending time with her father. Legally, her father has ‘time’, however, emotionally Kayleigh is resenting her father for this. John is still young, and plays on a recreational team. He prefers to make both parents happy, and focuses more on ‘parents time.’
Tiffany just turned 13. Her parents have been divorced for 10 years, and she lives majority of the time with her father because her mother lives over 300 miles away. Tiffany sees her mother during holidays, breaks, summer, and on some weekends during the school year. Tiffany is a social butterfly and has many friends, and wants to spend time with her friends in the summer close to where she lives majority of the time. Tiffany’s mother supports that, however, enforces Tiffany to spend the allotted six weeks in the summer where the mother resides. Although this has worked well in the past, Tiffany is beginning to resent going to her mother’s during the summer, and begins to bargain with her mother about summer break. The mother automatically thinks the father is involved, and starts a modification of the parenting plan and contempt hearing based on what she perceives the fact that the father is withholding their child (Tiffany). However, it has been Tiffany defying to see the mother, and Tiffany trying to talk to her mother about this. The father has been supportive of the relationship between Tiffany and her mother, and has even been a ‘mediator’ a few times.
These are examples of ‘parenting time’ vs. ‘children’s time.’ Recent research indicates most parents will be flexible in their parenting arrangements so their children can partake in activities and events. In fact, most parents are able to put their personal feelings aside, and think about their child’s needs and wants. With technology, parents and children are able to stay in touch via text, FaceTime, skype, phone calls, insta gram, Facebook, and other social media (depending on age). Older children and teenagers report feeling ‘connected and supported’ by their parents when they are able to attend functions, play sports, and attend friend outings. These older children also report more enjoyment spending family time with each parent because neither parent is claiming ‘my time.’ Younger children usually prefer spending time with their parents, and family members more often; and still want to participate in activities with their parents support.
This is great news for the flexible parents that co-parent and do what they can for their children. What about the group of parents (approximately 20%) who are considered high conflict, and are counting the days, hours, minutes, and seconds? These parents are not flexible, and do not seem to take into account their child’s schedule.
As you can see in the above graph by Maccoby and Mnookin, cooperative coparenting and disengaged coparenting (aka parallel parenting) have the lowest conflicted communication. Conflicted coparenting and mixed have the highest confliction when parent communicate. What parents in these situation have difficulty understanding is the best interests for their children. Many parents truly believe the other parent is ‘bad’ and focus more on ‘getting back at’ or ‘protecting their children’ from this parent rather than think about the effects this is having on their children.
Conflicted parents spend more time preparing for court and arguing rather than focusing on their children’s needs and wants and forgeting to cherish the small moments. In the grand scheme of things, parents have 18 (important yet little) years to raise their children – blaming the other parent and counting hours and minutes (they get) may be taking more time away mentally and physically than focusing on what your children need to develop into well adapted adults. Remember to ask yourself – is this truly about your children and their time or is this about your time? Are you really protecting them from the other parent or are you too wrapped up in your own emotions? These questions may be challenging to answer alone – May be ask a trusted friend who will provide the information you may or may not want to hear, however, will provide you an objective point of view.
If you need help, look for professional help and not the help from your children or subjective friends and family – this may hurt your family further.
Written by Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC
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HAVE A SAFE REST OF YOUR SUMMER!
Long Counseling and Evaluation Services, PLLC