Practical recommendations for making contact

Every family is different, and every child is unique. However, there are tips and rules to keep in mind when planning and implementing contact. Try them as an inspiration.

We can't tell in advance whether a tip or rule will work for you. However, suppose you are already in contact with our Office. In that case, you can make an appointment with the office psychologist to discuss whether and how to apply these rules.

How to explain to the child when they will be with the other parent?

The feeling of uncertainty is very unpleasant for each of us. However, let's not forget that children also want to know what is waiting for them and what to prepare for.

Try to give them a graphic plan of both parents' care, or describe it in a letter you give to the child.

Once such a plan has been made, the parents must follow it and not further betray the child's trust.

Parents can post the contact plan on a notice board at home, and the parent who is with the child more often should prepare the child for the contact, together with the child, and positively motivate the child.

For younger children, dollhouses can be helpful where parents can show the child what to expect (packing, car/plane ride, bed at the other parent's house, fun at the other parent's house, return).

It is the parent's job to update the contact plan according to the child's needs - obviously, contact when the child attends nursery school may be different than when the child attends primary school.

How to deal with information that the child has not been well with the other parent?

Naturally, a child will not always return from contact completely satisfied. It is not the right way to deal with the situation to ignore the child's dissatisfaction. Still, at the same time, parents must not pass on the responsibility for improving the situation to the child.

Again, the parents must resolve the situation together to avoid unpleasant situations for the child in the future. The options for parents to deal with such a situation are summarised in the section on tools to promote parental agreement.

Twenty wishes for children when parents separate

Wishes can be hard to say. It is often very difficult for children of parents who are separating to make their wishes known to the parents they do not want to betray. These wishes capture typical situations repeated in families dealing with parental separation. Parents may try to carry out these wishes without their child asking for them.

Dear mommy and dear daddy!

  1. Never forget: I am the child of both of you. Whether I live with just one of you or you take turns caring for me, I need both of you equally.
  2. Don't ask me which of you I like better. I love you both equally. Don't blacken the other one in front of me because it hurts me.
  3. Help me keep in touch with the parent I'm not spending time with - dial their phone number, let me a text or email them, and put their address on an envelope... Help me make or buy a nice gift for them for Christmas or their birthday. Always have my photos developed twice - once for the other person too.
  4. Talk to each other, and don't use me as a messenger between you. I don't want to deliver messages that will sadden or upset the other person.
  5. Don't be sad when I go to the other parent; I won't feel bad there. But, of course, I would prefer to be with you all the time. But I can't tear myself apart - just because you have torn our family apart.
  6. Never plan anything when I have to be with the other parent. I want to spend part of my time with Daddy and part with Mommy. Keep it consistent.
  7. Don't be disappointed or angry if I don't check in with you while with the other parent. I have two homes now. And I have to keep them well separated - otherwise, I wouldn't be able to navigate my life.
  8. Don't pass me off as a package at the door. Instead, invite the other person in for a while; these are brief moments for me when I have you both. Don't ruin them for me by ignoring or arguing.
  9. When you can't see each other, pass me around at daycare, school, or friends.
  10. Don't argue in front of me - it doesn't make me feel good. Instead, be at least as polite to me as you are to other people and as you require of me.
  11. Give me enough information, but don't tell me things I can't yet understand.
  12. Let me bring my friends to you both. I want them to meet my mommy and daddy and see how great you both are.
  13. Make a fair deal about the money. I don't want one of you to have too much money and the other to have too little. So make sure you both do well enough so I can feel equally comfortable with you.
  14. Don't compete to see who can spoil me more. I could never eat so many sweets; how much I love you both.
  15. Tell me straight out if sometimes you can't make ends meet. Time with you is more important to me than money anyway. I enjoy a great game together much more than a new toy.
  16. We don't have to have events all the time. We don't always have to be doing something new and cool together. The best thing for me is when we're just happy and relaxed, playing and having some quiet time.
  17. Leave as many things in my life as possible as they were before you broke up. It starts with my room and ends with the tiny things I used to do alone with my daddy or mommy.
  18. Be nice to the grandma and grandpa on the other side, even if they stood by their child more during the divorce. You would have stood by me if I was doing poorly. I don't want to lose my grandparents yet.
  19. Be tolerant of the new partner the other has found or will find, especially don't badmouth them in front of me. I have to get along with this person too.
  20. Be optimistic. You didn't handle your partner relationship well, but at least try to manage the time afterward well. Go through the pleas I'm writing to you. Talk about them, but don't argue. Please don't use this letter to blame the other person for how bad they've been to me. If you do that, you have entirely misunderstood where I am and what I need to feel better.

(Source: Dr. Karin Jäckel, child psychologist and children's literature writer, freely translated and adapted)