Coping with Your Feelings about Visitation

by Brette Sember

feeling overwhelmedSetting up and living with a parenting plan is a big change for everyone. All of you must get used to a new schedule. Working through the new plan takes time. You need to readjust your weekly rhythm and perhaps make adjustments to other activities in your life to make the schedule workable. Perhaps the hardest part though, is learning to handle how you feel about visitation.

It's Normal

You might be totally overwhelmed with the emotions you're going through as you adjust to and live with visitation. There is no "right" way to react. Everyone handles this in their own way and in their own time. You need to be patient with yourself, accept the various emotions you are feeling, and try to go with the flow. There’s nothing weird about you for having a myriad of feelings about the situation.

Don't Feel Guilty

You might experience some feelings that bother you. It is normal, for instance, to have very strong negative emotions about your ex. It is also normal to sometimes feel excited about having some scheduled time alone, away from your child. It is also ok if you feel angry or resentful towards your child -- for enjoying time with the other parent, for not worrying about you, or for making things difficult. Feeling or thinking these things does not make you a bad person or parent. It is healthy to feel these things and try to find a way to accept them and get through them.

How to Cope

If you feel like you're drowning and dont think you will ever be ok with the parenting plan, there is hope. First of all, if you don't have a therapist, get one. Having someone to talk to who can help you work through problems and find solutions can be invaluable. It is also important to take things one day at a time. If you look ahead and wonder how you can ever cope with years and years of this schedule, you will feel overwhelmed. Instead, try to get through today and this week only. Try not to focus on your anger and resentment, instead think about what you can do right now to move ahead and get through the day in a positive way.

Dealing with Missing Your Child

As you first adjust to the schedule, and even in the years to come, there will be days when you will miss your child while he or she is with the other parent. Remind yourself that spending time with the other parent is a healthy and important thing for your child to do. Find other things to do during these times, so that you can begin to find some fulfillment, or at least distraction.

No matter how hard you work at it though, there will be times when you ache to be with your child. During those times, there is nothing wrong with calling, texting, or emailing your child. Remember, however, to keep your conversation light and do not dump your loneliness and sadness on your child.

Getting Through Anger at Your Ex

Even if your divorce or separation was handled in a somewhat amicable way, cooperating as parents can cause strains and tensions. There will be times when you will be angry at your child's other parent. The best way to try to handle this is without involving your ex or your child. Scream and cry, unload onto your friends, throw pillows at your wall, do whatever you have to do to release steam.

However, getting into a shouting match or a war with your ex will only make things worse. It will make it harder to work together as parents and it will be hurtful and difficult for your child, who will feel as if he or she is in the middle. Try to partition these feelings and keep them away from your child and as removed as possible in your dealings with your ex.

Making a New Life

A parenting plan gives new shape and definition to your life. Embracing that new direction can help you feel as if you have a grip on things. You may never completely love your parenting schedule or feel completely adjusted to life as a single parent, but you can move forward and try to put a positive spin on the situation.

Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of: