I will never forget the day I left our family home. I left the house with no actual plan. All I needed to know was that I needed to find a home where the children could be comfortable when they came to see me, whatever the arrangement. There started the custody battle. There was a month break where I did not see the kids in person until a temporary structure was agreed upon as we got through the challenging journey with the courts. The agreement we initially reached was eight nights a month. Every other weekend and every other Wednesday to Thursday. Or, as the courts say, visitation. Let’s talk about the term visitation and learn how co-parents can create two loving homes for their children. 

The Stereotype of Visitation

In the typical scenario, if you’re just short of an every-other-weekend parent, the courts and the public will call that “visitation,” a term that should not be used regarding parental custody arrangements. Kids are not visiting their parents. They may visit their cousin or grandparents, or friends. Both parents are responsible for providing homes for their children, no matter the time spent.

This Is Your Home

The term “visitation” perplexed me. When they first entered their home with me, I immediately told my two children (12 and 9 at that time), “You have two homes now.” I expressed that to them with reassurance that they understood. They did initially. Naturally, they occasionally treated my home as a time to “visit” Daddy. To be fair to them, I was the outgoing parent planning weekend events for the family or taking them on errands with me because I couldn’t keep still on the weekends. That’s what they could remember. So when they came to see me, it was their expectation that was going to happen all the time. But with limited time and resources, that occurred less frequently.

One day, one of my kids said they were bored. I stated that we cannot do something every weekend, but I want you to treat this like home because this is your home. Relax or find something to do here, like at your mother’s house. “This is your home too.” That reassurance helped them adjust a little better.

Some things were still missing because I kept getting the same results! I couldn’t quite figure it out until I did. They were not treating where they came to stay with me like home. I thought all they needed was a room, a bed, food to eat, and almost the same treatment I gave them in the other house. Here are some things I discovered that made this new living space theirs.

Co-parents can work together to create two loving homes. This dad shares his perspective and how he worked to make their home a loving home after his breakup. 5 Ways Co-Parents Can Create Two Loving Homes For Their Children

Don’t Use Language or Tone That Suggests Visiting

Even though I was opposed, I still used language and tones related to “visiting” me. You see it in court and other blogs and dad support groups. Visitation is all over, and that’s why you feel you are relegated to “a visit from your kids,” no matter how much time you spend with them. Use terms or statements like:

  •  “I can’t wait till you come home.”
  •  “We are going home” if they are asking when coming from an activity. 

Don’t say “going to my house” because they will start to use it, think about it and believe it. 

There’s No Place Like Home

Once you get past the term and mindset of “visitation,” it’s time for you as parents to create two loving homes. You cannot replicate their natural environment, especially when you tell them they have two homes. You’re starting from scratch, and they know that. You’re creating a new environment and a second home for them in that environment. If you live in the same neighborhood, there are some exceptions. But it is best to involve them in decisions like decorating, especially for their room.

Establish Boundaries

I remember when the kids first came, I wanted to appease them. I did not want to make them uncomfortable, especially during custody battles. From personal experience, they operate better when there are rules. You cannot buy kids. The kids are living with you. You and their mom may have different parenting styles. What you require your kids to follow or work on to grow is dependent upon you when they are with you. No matter how many overnights you have in the home, they should follow the program established to make the house run. Whether it is chores, bedtime, or phone time, they need to be reinforced by you as the leader of the household.

Live In The Now

Fathers leaving home, or the “non-custodial” parent, often have limited financial resources because of child support requirements. Non-custodial could mean you have one less day a month than the other parent. I had to move into a 1-bedroom in the interim because taking care of two households is much more cumbersome than one. I had to adjust my spending. You have to be creative with that space and make it home immediately. 

Children care more about now than what will happen in the future because “now” is right in front of them. There’s no need to show guilt or make too many promises about moving to a bigger house. They will only treat their current space as home if you do. When that time comes to move, they will be ok with minor changes. They will also bug the heck out of you if you promise a new home.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

“Home is where the Heart is” accurately describes this situation when your children have two homes. Get to your children’s hearts, and they will feel at home. Give them a window to yours, and they will feel at home. Always keep them in mind and communicate with them regardless of which house they are in at any given time. 

Visitation is a term that needs to leave our minds when dealing with children and parents. It starts with you. Whatever time you have with the children you and their mom created, make that time with them the best you can. If you try these things, they will never feel like they are visiting. They will feel and know that their parents have created two loving homes. 

Do you co-parent? How did you create two loving homes for your children?