Thursday, May 16, 2013

Parenting Time Exchange Protocol - Indiana Parents, Practitioners and Judges

When it comes to making arrangements for interactions between post divorce or separated parents we must use directed consciousness towards a child centric view of parenting. Opportunities for the children to experience interactions between their parents may be frequent and fluid or limited to a rigid, court ordered schedule that occurs only at a neutral location, possibly a police department.

For years we have heard that when parents aren't willing to forgo the harm to children caused by divorce that they should ameliorate the damage by removing conflict from the children's presence. I contend however that simply obscuring conflict from the view of the children is insufficient. Children possess great acuity about their parents feelings and will often withhold comment or suppress their own feelings so as to protect the feelings of the parents. Parenting time exchanges should be an opportunity for parents to express some civility towards each other. It must be genuine though. Children are attuned to the subtle cues such as an exhaustive sigh that a parent releases upon reentering the vehicle – so as to say I am glad that is over with.

The parenting time exchange location can send numerous messages to a child, sometimes conflicting. When practical parents should agree on an exchange routine that balances transportation responsibilities. I suggest that the parent to whom the child will be with provide the transportation. In effect the child is always picked-up, never dropped off. This travel time will also give the child an adjustment opportunity while heading to your home, so make the most of it. When both parents are capable of providing transportation then practitioners should recommend that the parent exercising parenting time do the pick up. Judicial officers should order the pick up only rule when circumstances avail themselves.

By using the pick up only rule children are never faced with the psychological impact of being dropped off which may instill a sense of a parent being done with them or remind the child of abandonment that may have occurred. Using only pick-up for parenting time exchanges conveys to the child that he or she is always wanted by someone. This is especially true for younger children but can also be important for the adolescent who has had difficulty adjusting to the new family dynamics.

Finally, a common practice that may very well have the most traumatic impact upon your child should be reviewed. I cannot stress enough the importance of examining a common departure ritual from the child's perspective. This applies to parenting time exchanges in particular but all such times as when a child or relative depart from the other. It is not uncommon to tell a child “Go give your grandmother a hug and kiss before she leaves” or some similar demand to exhibit affections either by the departing person or the parent remaining with the child. Parents who try to display a sense of cooperation and harmony around the children may also engage in this behaviour – “give you mom a kiss goodbye before we leave”. I want to be absolutely clear on this point. You may be encouraging and facilitating sexual abuse of your child.

Perpetrators of sexual abuse of children exploit opportunities like this. These departing rituals take control of a child's affections away from himself. Children should always be taught that they own their affections. They should never be forced to display affections or “show love”. Abusers groom children in a manner that skews what the normal adult population knows “love” to be. An abuser who tells a child to “show me that you love me” has a far different intent and may have groomed the child in a manner far different from what we expect when telling a child to “show grandma that you love her”. Do not force your child to show affections during parenting time exchanges or at any other time. Your children should be empowered and know that they always control their affections and are not obligated to comply to the demands for affection by any other person.

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©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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