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For Non-Custodial Parents

By: Susan Durham, Attorney at Law

Buy cookie dough and a disposable pan to bake cookies. Let the kids cut and place the dough on the pan. (don't worry if they eat some) Set a timer and don't forget they're in the oven! If you buy sugar cookies, get decorator icing in various colors (the tiny gel type) so they can decorate.

Don't be afraid to throw the whole mess out when you're through (or the kids get bored)!

Let kids 'camp out' in sleeping bags in the living room. 'Tents' can be made of chairs and blankets. Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich picnic under there. Ask them to help you 'pack' the picnic basket. Don't be afraid to join them on the floor. Don't worry about the mess, just have fun!

Recommended items to have on hand (most of these items can be purchased at a dollar store):

  • Instant hot chocolate packets with marshmallows
  • Instant noodle soups
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Packaged fruit cup, Jello, low fat puddings
  • Disposable wipes (car, pocket, home)
  • Rolls of paper towels to keep in your car and bathroom
  • Tissue with aloe for sniffles - more small boxes, rather than one large box
  • Extra toothbrushes
  • An egg timer - for 'five more minutes!l'
  • Fever strips, cough drops & children's Tylenol - don't panic and send them back if they get sick or have a headache - you can cope!
  • Extra socks and underwear - make sure little girls in particular change their panties at least daily. Little girls can get infections if their underwear is dirty or wet. Get cotton.
  • Monistat for little girls in case they get itchy 'done there.' Instruct them to smear the cream all over the area with their fingers. You can demonstrate the technique using your elbow. You?re going to have to scream through the bathroom door to supervise this one. Avoid sitting wet bathing suits.
  • Micatin for little boys for jock itch - spray is preferable.
  • Baths: Bathe frequently - kids like it and they smell better! Careful the water is not too hot. Get baby shampoo and bath colors (for painting the side of the tub)
  • Spraying cold water is fun. Don-t worry about the mess. You can clean it later, you'll always remember the fun.
  • Several pairs of 'one size' mittens in one or two colors (dollar store) - mittens tend to get separated, this way you can put unmatched pairs together!
  • Water balloons and bubble liquid for hot days.
  • Cheap wash cloths to wipe hands and faces in warm water often - use once then throw in laundry. A gentle warm face wash from a parent can be comfort after a bump or scrape or to dispel tears.

Good cheap movies to rent:

  • For little girls: The Little Princess, Mulan
  • For little boys: Pinocchio, Milo and Otis
  • For everyone: A Muppet Christmas

General Advice:


NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER tell a child, or his or her other parent, you will pick them up and not do it.

Children will press their little noses on windows for whole weekends at a time, making up excuses as to what may have happened to their parent. This is the step before deciding that Dad or Mom doesn't really love me. You will break your child's heart and boy, oh boy, will his or her other parent ever hate your guts! I will hate you too, so don't come to me if you have problems because you did this. Your job is no excuse. Your marriage is no excuse. Your parents' funerals are no excuse. Only death or dismemberment are excuses, and then you HAD BETTER CALL BEFORE YOU'RE EXPECTED!!! Not to do so is mean, evil and bad. My handy little memory trick, so you don't forget:


If you are married, or have a 'significant other' (SO), let them go do things on their own and you spend some time with just you and the kids. Your SO is NOT their Mommy / Daddy and never will be. Don't make the kids call him or her that. 'Miss or Mr. First Name' will do fine.

If they cry and ask for the other parent, don't panic, get angry, or feel insulted! Ask if they'd like to talk to him or her on the phone, and let them call her. They won't stay on for long, and it will reassure their other parent that you are being a good parent. Very young kids just want to make sure he or she still exists, and that being with you won't cut them off from him or her.

Reassure them that they will see the other parent (whenever your time is over). Offer a cup of warm chocolate / cold water and a quiet activity. Sit in a chair and read with them on your lap.

SAFETY: Dads tend to have a more casual approach to supervising. However, there are some boundaries which should NEVER be crossed.

DO NOT leave a child alone at a water / theme park because you want to go on a ride without them.

Rehearse various situations that might happen to them - pretend. "I'm a stranger. You don't know me. I come up to you and tell you your dad sent me to pick you up from school." Inform your kids that they MUST RUN AND SCREAM if certain things happen. e.g. Never get into a car voluntarily with a stranger. Never let anyone in the house. Kicking, screaming and making a huge scene have saved more kids than anything else. It is safer for a child to jump from a moving vehicle than to stay with a kidnapper.

Kids have been taught to be polite to adults. It is very hard for them to overcome their natural impulse to see adults as protective of them. You must convince them there are bad people in the world and that with strangers, it is better to embarrass an innocent stranger and have to apologize, than to risk being taken away by an evil one.

Make a plan for if you become separated at a store. Don't believe it won't happen, it will! When you go in, show your child what a store employee looks like (Target, red vest, etc.) and tell them to go up to one, or a policeman and tell them they're lost. Don't leave the kids alone at a table in a mall while you get food.

PUBLIC RESTROOMS: You will have to take a small child (younger than 10) to a restroom yourself. If you have a little girl, and you are a dad, approach a motherly-looking woman (not the one in the tight jeans) who is going into a bathroom with a child and ask her to take yours in with her. Stand by the door. If you can't find one, ask a decent-looking female employee to accompany your child. Never leave the door to the bathroom. Make sure there is not another exit.

HEALTH: Gently wash little faces and hands frequently in warm water to avoid illness and to comfort them.

CLOTHING: While you don?t have to return kids to mom spotless, you should be careful to change their dirty clothes at least daily and not send them back in something dirty.

Don?t gripe if they don't arrive with everything they might conceivably need. If money is a problem, go to thrift stores and buy used play clothes, warm jackets and sweaters. Let them wear them back to Mom - you will seem like a generous and wonderful Dad, and she'll be much easier to deal with on the big things, like your SO living with you.

Trips to the thrift store are particularly fun for little girls - purchase some 'dress up' clothes and 'grown up' party dresses, scarves and other items in fancy materials.

A good thrift store is Thrift Mart at 1131 Irving Blvd, conveniently located by an auto parts store. If you purchase a certain amount, the owner gives you a 50% off discount card for the next time you shop! They also have a used furniture store. Hours are M-Th 10-7; Fri, Sat 10-8; Sun 12-6. The furniture store is closed Sunday and Monday.

Let little girls go out in silly outfits. They will have to be serious all too soon!

FEEDING: Don't wait until kids say they're hungry. It is a wise man who feeds his kids before he brings them back to their mother! One of the big gripes I hear from moms is that 'he never feeds them.' If kids arrive at Mom's hungry, they won't remember the last time they've eaten, which will be her first question. If they don't remember, they might say, or she'll infer, that they were not fed at all. Meals don't have to be elaborate or even large. Microwave a couple of taquitos and wrap them up to put in their pockets when you're going out in the car or taking them home.

WORK: DO NOT plan to be at work on your children's weekends and leave SO to take care of the kids, even if she's willing to do it, and even if you could use the money. Let your employer know you are not available on the weekends you have with your kids. You can stay late when you don't have them.

Kids need to feel important and loved. It takes your time and effort to accomplish this and it is your responsibility. If it is UNAVIODABLE (which it should NOT BE more than once or twice a year), consider letting the kids stay with the other parent and try trading that weekend with one where she or he has something he or she must do. Don't leave kids with SOs when you are not planning to be there.

DISCIPLINE: SO's must NEVER physically punish the kids. They can physically stop them from doing something dangerous or annoying - grab any available part of the body to prevent running into the street, or place a hand on a should or leg to keep them from kicking the back of the car seat.

RUDENESS: DO NOT put up with the kids being rude or disrespectful of your SO. He or she is an adult, and your friend, and is entitled to respect. If he or she is petty and mean about the kids' other parent in front of them, it would be best to limit his or her contact with kids altogether. Kids will ALWAYS WITHOUT EXCEPTION say something like 'you're not my mommy and you can't tell me what to do.' Prepare your SO for this - it WILL happen - it seems to have been genetically implanted in their little brains. The best response is, 'We are in Mr. X's home and we both follow his rules here.' Don't threaten to take them home, that's what the little devil had in mind in the first place. Good luck with this one!

APOLOGIES FOR BAD CONDUCT: Since your SO is pretty helpless, YOU MUST be responsible for discipline: children shouldn't talk back to any adult, they should follow your SO's rules when in her home. Infractions should be handled privately and immediately with the child, and the child should be required to apologize to your SO, or any adult, for bad behavior (except perhaps the above statement, which I don't know what to do about.)

NEVER apologize behalf of a child. It does not demean a child to make them apologize for bad conduct or even for breaking something accidentally - it discourages them from repeating the conduct, and it teaches them responsibility for their actions. The consequences for failure or refusal to apologize when required is to temporarily lose something they like: TV time, computer games, a movie, a toy or a treat.

Think about the consequences for bad behavior. The punishment should fit the crime. You must not punish right away if you are angry. Tell them very specifically what they did wrong and that you will decide what the punishment will be. Let them think about it as part of the punishment. Punishment must be certain and related to and proportional with the behavior. If you are punishing all the time, you should take a parenting class. Constant punishment is child abuse.

POTTY TRAINING: NEVER PUNISH for accidents, particularly not for potty-training accidents. Kids feel terrible when they make this kind of mistake. It is your job, if your child is doing something for an extended period of time, to make sure they take time out to go to the potty. If there is an accident, it is just as much your fault as theirs. However, if potty training is becoming a nightmare, the child may be experience some psychological problem in connection with the confusing situation he or she is in. DON'T give up and put the child in a pull-up all weekend unless it is absolutely necessary. This training is a commitment between a good parent and the child. Offer lots of hugs, encouragement and reassurance. A call to the other parent might help too. Don't be surprised if a child who Mom says 'gets through the night' without an accident needs a pull-up at night when he / she is with you. Activities with Dads are generally more tiring and a child may sleep more soundly with him. Just go ahead and let them have it at night as long as they need it.

REWARD: Always reward good behavior promptly: Describe exactly what they did right. Use lavish praise, hugs, special projects (i.e. making a model plane together,) etc. Rewards do not have to cost you anything but the pleasure a child gets from having made their parent proud. You can purchase small things from the thrift store to keep in a drawer for when they do something good - let them pick their reward!

ROAD TRIPS: Force yourself to make frequent potty stops on road trips. Yes, I know, that is against your religion. Just do it anyways! Don't take their word for it that they don't have to go. Yelling after an accident won't work as well as stopping - and, it's hard to get urine out of upholstery.

PICTURES: Take lots of pictures of the kids when they're with you. No bathtub pictures of kids! No pictures of kids kissing unrelated persons. Get the throw-away cameras and mark on the outside the dates and events they contain in case you can't get them developed right away. They are great evidence, if you ever need it - which you won't!

Have a wonderful time with your child(ren)!!!

Fathers For Equal Rights is a wonderful group that cares about what's best for the children.
  -- Janice N.

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