Continuing and Strengthening Parent Child Relationships
In a 2011 publication by the US Census Bureau, it was revealed that fathers only made up about one in six occasions of being the custodial parents. The remaining 82.2% have to make do with the standard visitation schedule which Mark D Matthews refers to as "the every other weekend syndrome" in his 1999 article in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law.
It is hard to maintain a meaningful relationship with our children during the pittance of time that the courts will award. It can be done. I now enjoy almost half time with my children, but at one time I was only allowed 4 hours supervised per week. We actually used this time to grow. I have had more reasonable time for only a little over a year now and I feel we are still closer than many relationships of dads who live with their children full-time.
Below I have some tips that came in handy for me and should prove useful to you as well.
Give your Children Comfort
Your children in no way were to blame for the separation. Yet they will take this blame on themselves if they are not corrected. The two people they love most are now at war. This is the most destructive event of their life and it feels like it will be awful for a long time. Whatever hurt you feel is multiplied by a thousand for them.
For the short time you have them, put all your grief and anger along and deal with their hurt.
Comfort them. Tell them you love them and reassure them you will always love them. Listen to them but respect their wish to not dwell on it if that is how they choose to cope.
No matter what they say, do not speak ill of their mother. The children love both parents and should be allowed to continue that. Extensive studies show the negative effects of verbal attacking of either parent cause cause emotional distress and trauma for the children. I recommend reading some of the research by Douglas Darnall on his website http://www.parentalalienation.org .
Make every Second Count
With a shortened time, prioritize the children. Your errands will still be there when your kids leave. Spend the time with them.
You want them to know how important they are to you then prove it. Since finances are usually tight during this time utilize parks and libraries. Whatever you do, be interactive with them.The event does not matter as much as the memory of time with you.
When your child is away from you, you want them to remember happy, secure time where they were having fun with you present. It is too easy for children to remember your most prominent quality as being absent. Do not reinstate this perception by being distant while you are present.
Only Run Your Residence
No doubt you will hear things about the on goings at their other home that irritate you. If you and the ex could agree on things, you would not be exes. Provide your kids with a safe comfortable second home where your rules and guidelines are enforced. Over time you may be able to establish a same front approach on the rules. If not, the boundaries you establish are your rules at your home, her rules are how things are over there. Do not waste time with what you can not control.
Trying to enforce rules at the other home undermines authority of a parent. If you create chaos at the other home you are harming your children. They need stable homes both with you and away. You can not guarantee the other home is comfortable but at least do not add stress to your child.