Restricted Access? Consider the Long-TermÖ
By Gary Direnfeld, MSW
Many parents with severely restricted access hold tremendous rage or anger at
agencies, institutions, courts or the custodial parent. However, their limited
access may be more a consequence of their responses to problems, than the
problems directly. Provocation by others cannot be used to excuse their own
behavior if inappropriate or worse, criminal.
First and foremost, parents in such situations must learn to manage their
behavior so that it cannot be used against them. No matter how provoked a parent
may feel, they must never act in such a way as to undermine their own self.
Parents must consider the consequences of their responses PRIOR to responding
and with a view to acting in their own long-term interest rather than the
immediacy of the situation.
Secondly, parents in such situations must learn that relationships are a
lifelong endeavor. So even though difficult today, parents must be helped to
think long-term. They must act now to prepare and build for a relationship even
if in their childís later life like adolescence or adulthood. Donít miss the
chance for something later, by creating new problems today.
To maximize the opportunity for a lifelong relationship parents with restricted
access can do the following:
1. Use whatever access is available. Children cannot live by excuses. Being
there whenever possible lets children know you value them. This is a primary
2. Never bad mouth the other parent or caregiver. Putting down someone else will
never elevate you. Concentrate on the children directly and your activities in
the moment. Do not place them in a situation of revealing matters of family life
that you think you can use in your case. This will only heighten their mistrust
of you and add to a poor relationship now and forever.
3. Leave your anger outside the visit. Children want the opportunity to see you,
not your anger. Also, your anger may scare them, which will only cause them to
want to stay away.
4. Remember all birthdays, holidays and special occasions with a card or gift
that is appropriate to their age and interests.
5. If allowed, maintain regular contact in-between visits by telephone or
email or letters. Again, remember to leave your feelings aside and concentrate
on enjoying listening to your child. Sometimes such contact is only a matter of
seconds. Do not expect lengthy conversations. Itís the contact that matters, not
6. Never hit your child, scream or yell, but do learn and use only appropriate
behavior management techniques. Remember, you are also a role model so what you
do in all aspects of your life matters most. Your children will learn by
watching you or being told about you, so always act appropriately.
7. Maintain a life journal with pictures and notes that you can use to share
memories together of good times. If you do not have access to your children,
still make a journal of your life showing what you were up to on their
birthdays, holidays or special occasions. Keep it positive and include a
birthday card that you would have sent. Then when you see your child, be it now
or when they are an adult, you can demonstrate they were always in your thoughts
and you can catch up. In such situations these actions can help your then adult
child feel better about themselves and help you forge an adult-adult
relationship. This can make up for some of the lost time and you both can feel
good about it.
Finally, consider counseling. You may need help or support to work on the
suggestions contained in this article or to fully understand all the needs of
children. Remember, your children will benefit when you put your issues aside
and concentrate on working towards a lifelong relationship that is aimed at
meeting their needs first, be it now or for the future. Itís only too late when
you give up or act inappropriately.