The water cooler conversations took a new theme this week and we ended up chatting about single parent stressors. As single parents, there were many situational considerations; as parents, we shared a lot of common concerns. We whittled our gripes and groans to what we call the 7 Single Parent Stressors, with much inspirational humor from the late George Carlin, given how emotionally-charged each point on its own can be. We needed some type of light-hearted aspect to not create an office full of angry co-workers with attitudes by the end of the day. But of the seven (kids taking sides, the ex, money, new flings, two homes, constant conflict, and visitation), it was one single parent stressor that trumped our conversation: Visitation.
“His week,” “her week,” “split holiday,” “my year,” “your day…” In a nutshell, visitation schedules are typically a pain in the butt. According to Wikipedia.org, about 16% of children worldwide live in a single-parent household. In 2010, the US Census showed that 27% of children live with one parent yet historically single parenthood was due to parental mortality rates (illness, disease, maternal mortality, wars).
While the figures read low in the big picture, it seems quite common to hear children say to their friends“sorry, I can’t go, I’m with my dad this weekend,” or the real heart-tugger “is it a mommy weekend or a daddy weekend?”
Related read: How to Help Children of Divorce Transition Between Houses
Visitation can be confusing and unsettling for children. A simple solution is to purchase a large block calendar for your child’s room. Adding a photo sticker of the other parental house will help your child see the schedule. Crossing off each school day also helps and as kids get older, they will be able to better plan with their friends or for other activities that may not be in the residential home area.
Arguing with your child about which weekend it is when he or she is in a testy mood and as a result, doesn’t wish to go (or wants to go and it is your weekend) can also be problematic. Reaffirming the idea that they will be back in “two sleeps and a wakeup” can be helpful.
Visits are hard. I’ve always thought of this when I travel. It is fun to go, but hard to sleep the first night away. It feels better on the second day, but just when I think as if I’m in a groove, it’s time to come home and readjust again. Kids with a visitation schedule do this all the time. Understand their ability to transition is a tall order. Factor in age and it becomes more clear that as a parent, you have to work twice as hard to make the transition easier on them than it is for you. This holds true even if all you are dealing with is a hiccup in your schedule or having to leave work early to make an accommodation to the other parent.
Children need a structured environment and daily routine. Some kids do not cope well with breaks in the routine nor, if very young, understand the concept of time as in “in a few hours” or “in three days.”
For many children, mommy and daddy are the peanut butter and jelly of their world. The two most favorite people with whom they want to spend their with –together. After all, do we really enjoy a jelly sandwich as much as a peanut butter AND jelly sandwich? No. Understanding that visitation is as much of a child stressor as a single parent stressor may help everyone manage with a bit more understanding.
Are you struggling with visitation issues as a single parent or have implemented a tactic to ease transitions? We would love to hear from you and possibly feature your story in an upcoming blog. Visit PersonalBabyProducts.com andPersonalizedKidsPlates.com to stay up-to-date on topics, tips and articles written especially for parents. We welcome you to share, repost and re-tweet our news, ideas and stories with your social network.