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Parenting Children Who do Not Live in your Home

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 9 Mar 2019 | comments*Discuss
Parenting Children Who Do Not Live In Your Home

Being a parent is almost always considered a full-time undertaking, and while responsibility for children doesn’t stop just because they aren’t in the house, a parent who’s children do not live with them faces unique challenges when establishing and enforcing rules. In addition to the problem of not being physically present with the children on a daily basis, non-custodial parents frequently encounter opposition when their ideas do not coincide with those of the children’s other parent.

Making Your Home Welcoming for Visiting Children

If at all possible, children should not be kept from maintaining a loving relationship with their non-custodial parent. Unless the parent poses a danger to the children, both natural parents should be allowed and encouraged to remain close to their kids, guiding them and offering them their love and affection. Kids who feel welcomed in their parents’ homes and lives benefit in a number of ways, not the least of which is a boost to their sense of self-worth.

Often, a non-custodial parent does not have the space in their house to set aside an entire room for occasional use by their visiting children, but even when space is limited, they need to create a welcoming environment that shows their children that they have planned for and happily anticipated their visits. Keeping a stock of favourite family games, kid-friendly foods and snacks, and comfortable bedding for overnight visits sends the message to children that they are welcome guests.

Establishing House Rules for Kids

Most often, children learn to live within the guidelines set up in the household where they spend most of their time, but kids should also be expected to accommodate differences in rules when they visit the homes of others, including their non-custodial parent. Slight variances in house rules are common and kids learn quickly what is expected of them in different environments. Most children understand that while some behaviours may be acceptable at home, they are not okay at their grandparents’ homes, and this concept applies to other places, as well, such as when they visit the home of their other parent.

Because they are not in place to handle everyday discipline, non-custodial parents should make the effort to keep the rules at their houses somewhat similar to those that the children are used to in their full-time residences. It is unfair for non-custodial parents to let the children run wild on their visits, only to be expected to return to their normal behaviour after a short while. Kids fare best when their lives are steady and consistent, so it is good for them to have a similar set of rules at the homes of both of their parents.

Staying Involved in Children’s Lives and Activities

Typically, children love having their parents in attendance at their everyday and special occasion activities. Even parents who do not live with their children can maintain close bonds with their kids by making it a priority to go to the kids’ athletic or academic events, stay involved with the kids’ school activities, take them to extra-curricular lessons, and make time for regular visits. If geographical distance makes it impractical for parents to attend their children’s activities, they can keep close between visits by engaging the kids in frequent phone conversations and email dialogues.

Maintaining Respectful Relationships with Exes

Custodial parents have more opportunities than those who do not live with their children to influence the kids’ behaviours and attitudes, and the messages that they send (purposefully or not) about the children’s absent parent can have a great impact on the children’s opinions of that parent. Unless there are important reasons for portraying the less available parent as irresponsible or unstable, custodial parents should avoid letting their personal differences influence the way that they speak of their children’s other parent, at least when the kids are present. Ideally, children should be given the message that both of their natural parents care for them and have their best interests at heart.

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Ive tried everything I can with my 2 stepchildren. Ive been around for the last 2 years. They were introduced to my son at the start who is a year yonger than his children. Ive tried discplining taking things away. Positive and negative reinforcement. But I get no where. My step dayghter who is 6 just does anything to get her way. Goes home and tells her mother I starve her because I wolnt let her eat 4 bowls of cereal for breakfast or a whole pizza to herself. With her father not hime on visiting weekends she waits until he cimes home to starta crying fit because she isnt getting her way which he caves to. I just dont lnow what to do anymore and when I mention it to her mother at the end of the weekend she just shrugs it off like the girl is untouchable. Does anyone have any advice. Im at my ropes end here
Bambi - 9-Mar-19 @ 8:58 PM
Hi, iv been with my new partner for just under a year and a half now. He has two boys (10 &8), I have three children between 10& 3 years. When my partners boys come and stay every other weekend and during holidays we expect them to follow our family rules that they have had explained to them, the rule my three follow every day. They aren't anything unreasonable, be polite, respect others things, be honest etc. But they seem to have absolutely no rules or boundaries when at home with their mother. So when they arrive for the weekend they are loud, rude and destructive. They have broken numerous of my youngests toys by throwing them around, jump around the furniture, their language is less the desirable that sort of thing. By the end of the weekend they are just behaving acceptably, then they go home. We constantly disciplin them but it just seems that is all we do, they then go home to their mother and say iv told them off and we get abuse over the phone and messages that I shouldn't be disciplining them! We want to take all five children on holiday next year but with their behaviour I'm dreading it. My partner wants to take them all to disney, but they won't wait in line for that long, they will just run off (they did that at Christmas when we took them all to see santa) and I dread staying anywhere with them in case they damage the rental property. Worst of all my children are copying the behaviour and my oldest is questioning why I'm more strict with them then I am with my partners boys (I don't feel I can disciplin like I do with my children because of the aftermath from his ex). We are currently going through the courts to get 50/50 custody hoping they will be more settled and use to the rules. Any help or advice would be gratefully received, it's so tiring and I'm not enjoying our time with his boys because of it. When they do behave they are gorgeous boys, funny, loving and can listen really well and I love spending time with them.
Superbeans - 22-Aug-17 @ 3:19 PM
@nyc - It may be that your step-daughter feels unloved and cast aside. It is a lot for a young child to have to adjust to her dad's new family, a bit of patience and kindness goes a long way. It is up to the adult to find a way around this as we have experience and age behind us. If you think back to what you were like when you were nine, I know my emotions were all over the place, especially where jealousy was concerned, our emotions at that age are completely undeveloped. On another note, just because you have split up, it doesn't mean you can't have a relationship with your husband too. Some people get along much better living apart, especially when they don't have the confrontation and extra stress that stepfamilies can bring. Good luck.
Tina - 15-Sep-15 @ 2:58 PM
I have a 9 yr old step daughter who , seems to have a lot oh resentment toward s my children , cause they live with me , I recently had a baby and I will be expecting another one in couple of months, every time she comes thete us always strife between the children. She will cry day they did somthing to her and they never did o feel she dose this for her dad's attention, he seems to condone her personality, behaviors he says nothing , we have split apart because of this I love my husband but cannot deal with this anylonger, need advise please
nyc - 14-Sep-15 @ 5:52 PM
@tya - I take it you are in the US, and we are a UK-based site. While here is not illegal for a parent to hit their child as long as the ‘smack’ amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’. There is, therefore, a difference between punishment and what can feasibly be termed ‘abuse’. Unreasonable punishment is classed as a smack that leaves a mark on the child, or the use of an implement to hit the child, such as a belt or cane. When a child experiences a negative emotion such as frustration, boredom or fear, they may not be able to adequately explain this emotion. Instead the child may turn to acting out in order to express their feelings, and possibly in order to catch the attention of an adult. Misbehaving can take many forms, from yelling and screaming at others (or for no apparent reason), to hitting, kicking, biting and/or destroying property. Each child does not act out in the same way though, so parents should take any change in behaviour as a possible indicator that a child is unhappy. A child also may have a nervous habit that they slip into in times of stress. Habits such as nail biting, wetting etc can all speak volumes about a child’s unhappiness. It sounds as though your step-child is very unhappy and if he is voicing that he 'hates' you, then this is probably reason enough to know that it may be you that is approaching this situation incorrectly. Sometimes, reverse psychology can work wonders, and that is trying to treat him with kindness. It may take time, especially if you have an established relationship of dislike with each other. However, this child will remember the way he is been treated as a child all through his life into adulthood, therefore would you not rather try to build a relationship of kindness up with him so that he can recall his childhood fondly, rather than one he will remember that is full of hatred and punishment.
BeingAStepParent - 25-Jun-15 @ 12:11 PM
Ive been a step mom for a little over 3yrs now. My step son is now 7yrs old, he lives with his grandparents and has since he was an infant. His birth mom has abanded him so I'm the only "Mom" he knows aside from grandma. My issue is when we get him over the summer for a few weeks he's horrible EVERYDAY. He will hardley act up when his dad is around, but when daddy is sleeping during the day ( he works nights) his whole attitude changes. He talks back, crys for absolutely no reason, lies about anything even the smallest things, he has pissed his pants 5 times since he's been here, lied about it all 5 times even tho the soaked underwear is proof enough, when I'm talking to him he walks away as if I'm non existent. I'm to the point I am about to call it quits. He told me today he doesn't like me and hates me and that's why he's bad for me, and he doesn't care. I've tried sitting him down and having talks, I even sat with him for 2 hrs and spoke with him, he knows our rules but decides to ignore them so depending on the issue he punishment ranges from a warning, to a time out, to doing squats on the wall,spanking with a hand or the good ol belt. And still everyday he has to act up like he enjoys it. My fiance has even spoken to him and handled a few issues but he says " ok, I promise I'll be good" then boom daddies down and the horns come out. I have 2 daughters one is his age 7and the other about to be 9 and a 2yr old with my fiancé, and neither of them have ever disrespected their step dad like my step son does me.I cook, clean take care of my kids and my cousins kids, I can't take this stress what should I do? Call it quits, keep trying, ??? Help
tya - 23-Jun-15 @ 10:52 AM
@CJ - we seem to have lost the first part of your comment in the system. But having read it, (and I hope I've got it right), it seems a nightmare situation what you are going through. It doesn't make it easier if you have to leave the house when the children are there, because you can make no difference to their lives or have any guiding influence. I actually don't know what to suggest here as it sounds like it is an ongoing problem that is not going to let up. Maybe it is a case of that if you are forced to distance yourself from them physically, then you might have to try and distance yourself from them emotionally, by leaving the managing of them to your ex, while trying to support him as best you can when you come home. It is very difficult when you have (as it sounds like) someone (his ex) who is doing their best to make like miserable for you and your other half. I guess the best thing is not to let his ex see it gets you down, as that is probably where she is getting her satisfaction from. But also to keep well away from the situation for your own peace of mind. You might find you want to speak to someone directly, if so you can find a link to Family Lives here. I hope this helps.
BeingAStepParent - 27-Feb-15 @ 12:03 PM
I am honestly at a loss and I am not even part of their lives yet.How do we maintain rules and try to teach them right from wrong when their own mother will do everything in her power to do things just to be spiteful?
CJ - 25-Feb-15 @ 3:16 PM
@Angel- Perhaps she was excited about the holiday and then it all got a bit much and she became nervous as the day approached, as children are inclined to do. Many children do not like to be out of their comfort zone and it may just be a case of this. The plus-side is that she obviously wanted to come in the fist place which is a positive and encouraging sign. It sounds like as Judy says, she may just need some extra TLC and bit of nurturing to bring her properly out of her shell, which really can only be done with time. However, it may be worth keeping an eye on her and having a few personal chats with her to make sure that she is fundamentally OK.
BeingAStepParent - 13-Feb-15 @ 12:58 PM
Judy. Hi thank you for getting back to me yes I've tried this and make her feel a huge part of the family. She is treated as an equal part of the family. But she just doesnt seem to be a happy child. Its very hit and miss. For example me and my husband asked if she'd like to come away for a couple of nites she was happy to do so. Now she's not coming. And mum sed we wasn't allowed her on the normal days we have her,But it was maintaince week, (so we couldthe following day.)I worry bout how the child must feel not knowingif she's coming or going.
Angel - 12-Feb-15 @ 1:35 PM
@Angel - apart from the information in the article, have you thought about spending some time with just you and her alone? It may be that she feels a little intimidated being with your five other children who are all siblings and have an obviously strong maternal connection with you. Perhaps you could begin to do some small things that she likes to do, whether it be something as simple as watching a film with her, or taking her shopping for clothes, or doing something creative, or baking cakes. If she starts to see that she can have a bit of fun with you, she may be able to relax a little more.
Judy - 12-Feb-15 @ 10:54 AM
How do you deal with a step child that comes across very withdrawn and seems to not like the step parent. I've been in her life now for 4 years. She's 7.In the past mum as said things to the child I believe it's still going on tho. I try my best all the time. Just never feels good enough. I also have 5 children. In need of advice please.
Angel - 11-Feb-15 @ 1:56 PM
The better a relationship you have with your ex, the easier it is to know what's going on with your kids, at home and at school. Where possible, present a united from on behaviour and expectations to the children so they can't play one parent off against the other. Talking to your children regularly on the phone when you can't be together is important too. It reminds them you love them, and you can keep up to date on their lives and involved with them.
Rob - 4-Jun-12 @ 11:40 AM
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