Sharing custody of your children has many difficulties, and one of the biggest is the feeling that you just don’t get enough time with them. Whether your time is shared equally or if you only see your kids occasionally, it always feels too short. It doesn’t help that sometimes kids feel like whoever spends the most time with them loves them more, and while you know this isn’t true, the thought of it still hurts. For these reasons, it is incredibly important for you to make the time that you do get to spend with them memorable.
The way that you spend the time you get with your children matters more than how much time you get. Even if you only see your kids a few times a year, the good memories you make together will be remembered by your kids for long after the time is up. To help in making these memories, do fun things together like playing games and doing other things to spark your kids’ creativity. Working together towards a goal also provides an opportunity for bonding time. Build a model together, or even involve your kids in some light housework like repainting a room or fixing a broken cabinet. Cooking also provides a bonding opportunity as you share your knowledge of the kitchen with your kids. Teaching them a new recipe is something that doesn’t only increase their cooking skills, but it’s also something they can do and always think of you as they make the recipe you taught them. If you and your kids are too tired to do all of these things at some point, even just talking to each other is a great thing to do. This gives you a chance to share opinions and emotions.
While you can do all of these things with your kids together, be sure to spend time with each of your kids individually. One-on-one activities create an opportunity to spend special time between parent and child and create memories just the two of you. Schedule this one-on-one time periodically throughout the year, and let your child be involved in choosing how you spend that time.
Remember that just as there are healthy ways of spending time with your children, there are also unhealthy ways to spend time. If you are always the lenient parent who buys gifts and always says, “yes” to the kids, you may actually be negatively impacting your children’s behavior and mental health. They may learn to believe that they are entitled to getting their way all the time, which can create problems in nearly every aspect of their lives. Kids need schedules and discipline in order to become healthy adults.
Even if you are never able to be with your kids physically, you can still make memories in other ways. Calling them on the phone, having video chats, sending emails or even real mail are all good ways of connecting with your kids. A special gift that will last—like a necklace or a blanket—can be a cherished item that will remind your child of you even when you are apart. Photographs of you spending time together are also great. Frame one or two of them so that you child can have them in their room.
Remember that even if you don’t have much time with your kids, what you do in those times is always far more important. Even if you don’t have as much time as you’d like, you can still build a relationship that will extend into adulthood.