When children leave for visitation: the first few times are the hardest


young female sleepingThis is a tough issue. I have to confess I didn’t handle this one very well when I was a single parent. The first few times my children left for a weekend I was lost and hurting. I have learned over the years about how to approach this dilemma. This is one of those issues unless you’ve experienced it or walked with someone experiencing it, it’s hard to understand how upsetting this can be. Don’t give up though, because you can be the catalyst that helps the single parent when no one else can.

As a children’s minister or church leader have you thought how are you going to minister to this parent?

How will you comfort this person?

What will you say to encourage them?

What if it has been an abusive situation and the parent is literally afraid to let the children go visit the other parent? Afraid he or she won’t return the kids.

What to do

  1. This single parent needs empathy. He or she needs you to understand they have a panicked feeling building up inside. Many wonder if they will ever see their child again. Some worry their children will have a better time at the other parent’s home and will want to live with that parent.
  2. Find out what the court orders say. You don’t need to know all the sordid details but just what the orders say about visitation.
  3. Tell the single parent that they must abide by what the judge has ordered. It might not seem fair but sometimes we must trust the legal system. Amazingly this can actually be comforting to many divorcing parents.
  4. Remind the single parent that children have a right to see and know the other parent. That doesn’t mean the child will no longer love them. Children are capable of loving both parents.
  5. Many children will cry when leaving the parent the first few times so the parent thinks the child is crying the entire time they are gone. Help the single parent understand that transitions are hard on kids. So yes it is hard to leave mom but more than likely once the child has adjusted and the mom is no longer in view, they have a good time with the other parent.
  6. Help the parent understand that changes in schedules; different foods and leaving the other parent to come back home can all be a cause for a cranky kid.
  7. Walk alongside this lonely single parent by praying with them and checking in every so often during the weekend.
  8. Encourage the single parent to trust God. Encourage them in their faith walk.
  9. Pray for this parent, for the children and for the other parent. Everyone is in a transition time. Pray for peace and for comfort for all.
  10. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom as you either minister to this family or you seek another person to minister to them.

What not to say 

  1. “God will get you through this. After all He never gives you more than you can handle.” And the person says this like it is a scripture you must abide and believe. (By the way when I was raising my children alone I learned that God always gives you more than you can handle simply because He wants you to believe in Him and trust Him.)
  2. “Oh, don’t worry. After all you were married to him (or her) at one point so he or she can’t be too bad.”
  3. “Go out and enjoy yourself. Have fun.”
  4. “It’s only a few days. Get over it!”
  5. “I bet your kids won’t even miss you while they are gone.”

Not having your children with you can be difficult. When children leave the first few times to visit the other parent it is different than allowing your child to spend the weekend with friends or relatives. For many divorcing parents it feels like they are sending the child to the enemy camp. While most of us realize this is not true still it is what the parent is feeling. It will take time and a few visitations for the parent to realize they and their children will survive.

If your church has DivorceCare, encourage this divorcing parent to get involved. This support group will help and encourage the single parent as they heal and recover from the divorce. If your church doesn’t have DivorceCare go to the DivorceCare link and use the “Find-a-Group” search engine to find a group near you.

Another great program for single parents learning how to be a single parent is Single & Parenting. This program gives single parents a support group where they can tell their stories and hear from other single parents about how they handle various situations.


2 thoughts on “When children leave for visitation: the first few times are the hardest

  1. When my daughter started visiting her father, I could not sleep!! It did eventually get better, it took time though!

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