When do you stop toxic visits for your child? How would you go about preventing the visits when the other parents/grandparent is allowed a certain amount of time each week or month? Supervised visits or court-ordered visits that are toxic can be damaging and traumatic for your child.
Court-ordered visits are more straightforward to discontinue as the case manager or supervisor of the visits can suggest stopping them for the child’s welfare. Simply put, the caseworker can appeal to the court that all supervised or unsupervised visits be on hold until some changes take place. The court usually enforces a completed parenting plan before they can start up again.
What do you do when you are the custodial parent and find someone suitable to supervise the visitation? Who do you trust? Finding someone honest regarding visitation can be daunting.
Giving the non-custodial parent’s state of mind or actions may be difficult for friends and family? Who can provide an accurate account of substance or physical abuse/ use?
I have seen parents struggle with supervised and unsupervised visitation over the years. The fear one parent has regarding the other is real. The non-custodial parent fears losing more time and their relationship with their child/ren. The custodial parent was awarded custody for good reasons and feared the safety of their children during visitation.
Some children come back from visits saying they did not eat; they were left alone or saw inappropriate actions or material. I have had children cry when a visit is about to happen because they do not want to go. They are scared.
These children have nightmares and illness before the events. They stress over clothes, what to take, how it will go, and what they will do. They try to be the parent and set the tone for a visit with games, suggestions, or activities. I have had children hide money or items in their backpacks to have food or give it to their parents for food. They worry about leaving but also worry about coming back.
Conversations regarding the opposite parent are incredibly harmful to children but happen regularly.
Children become a pawn or they mediator. Children who fear one parent may have past trauma from abuse or neglect they have not spoken about openly. The parent may not see it as neglect or abuse.
If a parent can not see the harm they bring to their child, it may indicate a need for counseling or rehab. To say “this is just how we live” is to say “I don’t understand the problem”. However, if the parent will not receive help, accept the child’s requests, or continues to be toxic, that relationship will need to severe for a time.
The amount of time the parent-child has to be apart will depend on the parent’s willingness to acknowledge they have a problem.
It is usual for parents to have different goals, ethics, or routines; however, most healthy parents will not take chances with a child’s emotional or mental stability. Introducing inappropriate activities, discussing illegal drugs, or placing the child at risk is never acceptable. Fighting with and in front of the child can lead to violent actions from the child after a visit or before the next visit—feelings of neglect, anxiety, abandonment, and anger pop up before and after visitations.
The custodial parent becomes anxious, defensive, and protective leading to more arguments and restrictions. Both families are unhealthy; trying to find a solution that saves the child becomes a new battle. Attempting to fulfill the court required visitation and keep the child safe becomes a balancing act.
Where do people turn when they can’t afford a new custody battle or fear for their child’s safety? In the case of a court-ordered situation, a court-ordered liaison is appointed. In other cases, some person is selected, but that person does not have the authority to stop visitations. A therapist or child counselor can write a letter stating the child’s needs, trauma evoking situations from the visitation, and the fear or anxiety the child is feeling. Once this letter is written, it can be submitted to the court, the non-custodial parent, and an attorney. Most often, the letter will stop the visitation until situations change.
I have had parents as for stipulations in their letter to continue visitation. Some things parents have added are: no over aged video games, no inappropriate rap music, hot water, clean clothes, appropriate foods, and no parties. To the average person, these requests should be standard actions for a child’s health and safety.
The parent whose child was taken from them struggles to see why their child can’t live or see their life. They might argue this is the way we live, and other people live like this.
I had one child ask me these questions: “Have you ever been hungry- I mean so hungry your stomach hurt, and you could not eat?” I had to answer, “no, I have not been that hungry”. A child told me this story: ” I was hungry, but my mom locked me in my room because she had friends over. She would not let me eat. I was so scared, and I made myself a knife to protect myself. I could see car lights and wished it was my grandpa to come and get me, but it was just my mom’s friends.” She would wake me up in the middle of the night to eat, and I was so tired I could not eat. She would get mad at me and yell because I did not eat. (Child was five years old)
Not all situations get to this point before the child’s removal from that home, but in all honesty, until a child feels safe to say what went on in the other household- we never really know.
When the toxic relationship ends, it will allow the child to grieve, grown, gain insight, and learn. In the child’s separation, they have the opportunity to understand healthy lifestyles and choices. I have had children come to me and request they never go back for visitation. They don’t like the life their parent leads, they are scared, don’t feel safe, and don’t trust their parents. If your child can’t trust adults to take care of his/her needs, who can they trust?