Coparent Academy Podcast

#95 - How to Structure Visitation with the Abuser Parent - Part 2

January 15, 2024 Linda VanValkenburg and Ron Gore
Coparent Academy Podcast
#95 - How to Structure Visitation with the Abuser Parent - Part 2
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In part 2 to episode 6 of our series on domestic violence and coparenting we jump right back into the middle of our discussion about how to structure visitation with the abuser parent. 

If you would like to participate in our domestic violence series as a guest, please contact us and let us know. We are interested in all perspectives and backgrounds for our conversations.

Thanks for listening!  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at podcast@coparentacademy.com.  To learn more about becoming the best coparent you can be, visit coparentacademy.com.

Speaker 1:

So let's move on to talking, if it's okay to talking about preparing the child. So how would you prepare a child? And let's again, we're assuming that you have the ability to do so, because you may not be in the case yet. So let's say, in a perfect world, you had the ability to just have a conversation with a child about the visitation that's about to occur for the first time. What kinds of things would y'all talk about?

Speaker 2:

Well, coming from the therapist's perspective. But I think these are things that if the supervisor is well prepared and has some experience, they could do as well Mainly hearing what their concerns or even fears might be if there has been physical or sexual abuse, and really feeling like somebody gets it. You know not just, oh well, that wasn't that bad, you got to see this person, you know that kind of thing. So not trying to guilt, trip the child into feeling a different way about it, which I have heard kids have experienced. And then what are they going to need? What are you offering them? For example, letting them know that they do not have to, especially the first type or two, that they see that parent, they do not have to respond physically in any way, and not until they really do feel it at some point. And then, just as much as they feel it, you know little sideways, hug kind of a thing and anything that you know. There are lots of types of things that they could if they're going to initiate. And then a safety kind of word, you know what's going to be our safe word or phrase. Or you know something like if you're going to be at a restaurant, you know, use the term red, stressing something, something that tends to match the setting, so that the kid can say it without the parent realizing that's what they're, that's what they're doing.

Speaker 1:

Another excellent point. I was taking a taking the opportunity to write that down for myself as a note, so that was in lay Sorry.

Speaker 2:

Well, and and then if they had one little girl, that that was really hers and she said, but I used it three times more insistently each time at the supervisor still didn't remember that was my word and she didn't take me away to talk to her about it, and you know that's so interesting, because how many times can you say platypus? Try fitting that into the conversation Right.

Speaker 1:

So it needs to be one that fits, but also the supervisors just got to click for them. Yeah, so that's a tough one.

Speaker 2:

Right, well, and I'm sure they've got lots of kids that are doing this with and lots of different safe words, yeah for sure.

Speaker 1:

Let's hope. Let's hope lots of different safe words and that they're doing that. Okay, so that's the prepared, the child. Let's talk about preparing the abuser parent, and I'll start with this one. So, from my perspective, what I would be telling the abuser parent is look, this is supervised visitation. It's happening. Get over it, it's going to happen. You're going to see your kid, which is fantastic. I know it's not in the way that you want and very often the person has even offended that it's brought up that they have to have professionally supervised visitation, and so almost every time I would say and so what I typically tell them is look, man, I'm on your side. Or ma'am, you know, look, lady, I'm on your side, but you need to get over yourself. Like, this is not what you want at the moment, but you want it more than not seeing your children at all. And if you don't see your children, then you're going to wind up having a much more expensive process later down the road that will still involve professionally supervised visitation. It'll just be after a more expensive process of reconciliation because you haven't seen the children in forever. And then also, you know, if you abuser alleged abuser parent is telling me that everything's a lie and that you never committed the abuse, then by refusing to do professionally supervised visitation, you're giving the children the opportunity to be alone, with no contact with you, with the parent who's lying about you, to just let them continue to inculcate the children with this concept that you're an abuser. That doesn't seem smart either. So you that's a really good point and also I said oh yes, without saying oh yeah, thank you, no, oh yeah, no, I agree it was wonderful. And then also I told them hey, if you're good and natural with the children, if you guys have a great relationship and there's nothing to be concerned about, then you're gonna have nothing but glowing reports and you're going to be able to show that you follow the rules, you respect the rules, you can control yourself and the court needs to know that you're someone that the court can trust. Refusing visitation tells the court. I can't trust this person. Accepting professionally supervised visitation set the court how you did and that you can be a partner in the process of restoring your relationship with the children. So the only downside is cash, and typically what I tell them is you know, if we've had this conversation for 30 minutes, you could have paid for four or five supervised visits with your children.

Speaker 2:

So we can talk about this. I've told them that before too. Yeah, we can talk about this a lot and I tried to work right. I get it from them when I'm transitioning them from, and sometimes it's in the order that it will happen anyway, but sometimes I'm just like I don't think you still get it because, if I might say, they haven't had any therapy and so back to how we started out.

Speaker 1:

No, I see your protest.

Speaker 2:

So it's like, okay, we still don't really get it, or you have somehow re-disturbed, if not hurt, the child in front of me. So I think we need another, perhaps, level of supervision, but still supervision, and they're like what I'm like well, at least you could probably get two or three supervised visits with this child without me for one of my hours with you.

Speaker 1:

Exactly so. In that start of the conversation about preparing the abuser parent was about an abuser parent who is hesitant or objects to the supervision. So let's say that we've gotten that person over that hurdle, or they were never there. They were always fine with doing the supervision, whether or not they believed they were abusive. They were like I get it, this is what's gonna happen, I'm down, let's just do it.

Speaker 2:

Then? Well, some of them are just glad to head to the right exactly.

Speaker 1:

Then I'm saying to my client who is under supervision hey, here's the deal. So you have this person who is going to be in between you and your kids and that's an unnatural thing for a parent. It's gonna be unnatural for you no matter how you deal with it. But you can make it and it's gonna be unnatural for your children to an extent too. So you can make it easier on yourself and the kids, and even the supervisor, by being nice, kind, polite, appropriate, staying within the rules. Keep it light. Don't try to buy off the kids by bringing lots of presents, because they'll see right through that in a heartbeat, depending on how old they are. Just keep everything light and keep the kids wanting more. Your goal at the end of the visit is to have the kids felt surprisingly comfortable, like we're there, like oh my gosh, I thought that was gonna be X, but it was Y. I was so comfortable and wanting to see you again.

Speaker 2:

I love it when I hear that. Or I love it when the child says really, is it already over? You know, I want it to continue.

Speaker 1:

You always wanna leave them wanting more. And if you do everything you can to make the visit easy, comfortable, and they want more, do nothing that makes the visit uncomfortable, uneasy, breaks the rules or makes the children think do I have to do this again?

Speaker 2:

Very good. Ooh, that's where sometimes the kind of supervisor or the place of supervision, typically the custodial parent wants there to be way more structure and a more restricted place than maybe even necessary or than the court has ordered, and especially more than the abusive parent thanks, as necessary. So I always say that it typically goes way faster the process does than the custodial parent wants it to be and it goes way slower than the estranged parent wants it to be, and it's kind of that way with the levels of structure and the types of supervision also. Yes, coming right up, I want to drop into a sitting posture with this image of me working over here. Let me see. Okay, it doesn't look very good. Let's hold theちゃOSette. I want to move it here. Right, and it's important that that parent does not like hang on to the kid and, you know, act like they're sending them to their death. You know, literally they're going to be okay, I think it's going to be all right. You know that kind of thing and I've even seen parents do that, you know, sitting their kid in the door to the new classroom at the first of the school year. It's like I promise it's going to be good. So yes, yes, exactly, yeah, cool, yes, and I have seen that upon arrival and upon leaving. You know in my office for many years that the child was all worked up at the beginning and was received back by the custodial parent like they had just survived something horrible. So it's what's needed to report is mainly a who, what where kind of thing. You know who was. It was their time of arrival, with somebody late. You know, those little things, like you said, really matter to the professionals involved, sometimes even the condition the child arrived in. You know, like when. I've got a case where every single time the parent had possession of the child gets them on with me late, late, like you know, halfway through the session. I know we've got a problem and so it's. You know those kind of things were definitely taking documentation on where we're looking for patterns. I just got one recently where I got like a dozen of the reports and it kind of is weaving in the part about what to make of what is reported and as a person who wasn't there, I want to feel like I was kind of there. Yeah, since I've been in that situation so many times, I want to be able to see it myself and if there are gaps in there. You know, like I would go through with a highlighter and put a dot on a place where it's like what happened for 15 minutes there? What was going on there? I like for them to be pretty frequently noted what time it is, instead of just all this happened for three hours. You know, sometimes the content doesn't match that amount of time. I mean, I know what it's like to try to entertain kids for that amount of time, and not just that much could happen. And then Right, and so it's like you know how much physical contact was there? Did somebody try to guilt trip the child to sit next to them, to hug them, anything like that? Is there spontaneous affection, you know, just verbal or physical? Is there a problem with a tone of voice? You know, sometimes a parent just sounds defensive the whole time or they sound mad. You know they're just really flat affect and kind of mad. So reactions back and forth, both ways between the child and the parent. You know, once again I want to feel like I was there when I'm reading the report.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, a few things I'll add to that Flexibility or inflexibility, and scheduling. To begin with, yes, so how? If redirection was necessary, why was it necessary and how did the parent respond to the redirection?

Speaker 2:

Very good and redirection that the parent may need to do with the child. And how does the child receive that you know? Does the parent just make the supervisor the actual parent you know, and have have them do all the any kind of structural negative perceived thing by the child, or does the parent step in and do some appropriate boundary setting as needed?

Speaker 1:

in a loving way and depending on the level of supervision, is the parent who's doing the visiting and, depending on the length of the visit, are they bringing snacks? That would be appropriate? Are they bringing age appropriate activities to do? You know, the more that a parent can show that they had the ability to do that, it's a proxy for their general ability to understand the needs of the children and to parent once they're out of supervision.

Speaker 2:

And don't underestimate the power of the snacks. Okay, because one of the best I've ever seen was a mother with teenagers who I would have thought going in, we're going to hate the whole process, and she brought each time a favorite dessert that she could make, and because the time would have been right after they had already had a meal anyway, and so she was bringing dessert each time. Oh, my goodness, it was just like it turned into, you know, like Christmas morning, around the dining room table with them. Every time they loved what she brought, they talked about what they were reading. Believe it or not, those two teenagers were readers, you know, and mom would go I'm going to get whatever book you're reading, we can talk about it. So it turned into like a book club every time. You know, it really can be one of the things that helps you kind of rebound. It helps kids go. Oh yeah, we used to do this together.

Supervised Visitation for Child and Abuser
Redirection and Parent-Child Interaction