11 Tips for Dad to make the first overnight visit go well (Pt. 2)

The time has arrived for the kids’ first overnight access with you. They may be excited, but they could also be nervous or reluctant. You may be anxious about it too. Here are some tips to help you ensure the visit goes well for the kids – and for you.

See Part 1 for 11 Tips for Mom.

NOTE: Statistically, the primary residence for children of separated parents is more often with the mother and overnight access more often with the father. But this isn’t always the case. Please read this post from the perspective that applies to you.

  1. Remember that the overnight visit isn’t about you – it’s about the kids. Focus on them. Don’t oversell how happy you are that they’re “finally” with you or how sad you’ve been because you haven’t seen them for a long time. Let them know what you’ve planned for the weekend so they see that you’re concentrating on them.
  2. Politely ask Mom to pack the familiar things the child uses during the day and sleeps with. Ask to know what she’s sending and why, so that you can know the degree of attachment the children have to each item. Be sure to return all of the important items when the kids go home.
  3. Ask Mom to pack appropriate clothes for the weather. Also let her know in advance if there’ll be any special event she should consider when packing. Tobogganing, skiing, hiking, and swimming all require special clothing. If you know what’s going to be happening, make sure the kids have the right stuff by giving Mom plenty of notice and promise to return everything. Then make sure to return everything Mom sends.It’s a great gesture to return clothes washed and folded. That consideration will also look good for you if the matter ever goes back to court. On the other hand, it’s always a good idea for you to have your own supply of clothing and gear for the kids.
  4. If your kids seem worried about being away from home, or if Mom is telling you that the kids seem worried, suggest that she arrange an overnight with a friend or a family member in advance. Then the kids will already know that being away from home isn’t scary. It’s also helpful so you can remind them that they have experienced an overnight before and it turned out okay.
  5. If this is the first overnight, you may want to have your parents or other family members visit so that the kids can feel connected to a larger family and will not feel isolated at your place. It’s not a good idea to have any “special friend” at your place for the access period until the kids are completely comfortable being with you.
  6. Consider arranging a time with Mom for her to call the kids and be sure the kids are available to speak at that time. Some parents find it best not to call the kids during a single overnight, as this can be disruptive. If you do decide to arrange a call:
    • Don’t ask any questions about what they talked to Mom about.
    • Don’t hang around nearby to listen to the call and don’t tape it.
    • Let the kids know that you and Mom arranged the call together and that you support them speaking with her.
    • Don’t cut the call off. If you think the call is going on too long, make a note of the time and discuss it directly with Mom later. If the call is going on a really long time and interfering with the bedtime routine, you can pick up an extension and politely mention to Mom that you want to start the kids’ bedtime routine in a few minutes and are giving her a heads up. Don’t let the kids see that you’re upset. Remember the kids are listening, so don’t look like you’re trying to control the time they spend talking with their mother or being the grouch. Discuss this later with Mom to work out a better arrangement for the next time.
    • Be sure to have the kids ready for the call. If you think they won’t be available at the scheduled time, let Mom know in advance and arrange for a better time. Keep in mind that the kids are expecting the call to happen and if it doesn’t, they could feel that you aren’t a person to be trusted.
  7. Remember that kids are sensitive to your moods and feelings. They will often tell you what they believe you want to hear, even if it’s not true. Don’t automatically accuse Mom of making something up if she reports the kids said something happened that you know wasn’t true. Your kids may actually have told you and Mom different things to try and make the situation easier for them. Just as the children may be telling you what they think you want to hear, they’re probably doing the same with Mom.
  8. If you have a separate room for the kids to sleep in, ask them what colour they want the wall painted and what decorations they want in it. Involve the kids in the look and feel of “their” room at your place and they’ll feel more at home there.
  9. If the kids have a pet at Mom’s, or want a pet, consider getting something for them to keep at your place. Obviously something easy to look after. A turtle or fish or anything else you won’t mind looking after while the kids aren’t there.
    Check out pets that make sense to you and will be manageable. Research in advance where you can get the pet, what the cost is and what you’ll need. Ideally you’ll have a few pets in mind and then let the kids choose.
  10. If there’s homework or a school project to be completed, make sure it gets done. You’ll look irresponsible if Mom sends a note to the teacher saying that something wasn’t completed because the kids were with you for the night and you didn’t get it done.
  11. Be business-like. Keep your language on the phone and in writing civil and to the point. However badly you feel towards Mom – even if she deserves it – your own life will be a lot better if you can keep communications all about the children. Remember that you still have a long-term connection to this person. It’s better for the kids and for you if the relationship is civil.

A record of respectful communication also helps if you need to go to court in the future. It demonstrates that you’ve been reasonable and focused on the kids rather than focused on your resentment towards Mom.