Q&A: what visitation is appropriate for my FIFO ex and our baby?
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: Hi, my ex-partner and I separated the day after I found I was expecting, he is FIFO. Our baby has spent no time away from my home as his father comes here to visit him. I am wondering what sort of visitation would be OK for such a young child and FIFO rosters?
A: This is the sort of question that will generate lots of different opinions, and there probably isn’t a 'one size fits all' answer. Visitation arrangements for babies should take the baby’s developmental needs into consideration, and this includes feeding, sleeping and attachment issues and needs. Also, visitation arrangements for all children of separated parents should take the child’s temperament and the parent’s relationship into consideration.
Ideally the parents will have an amicable relationship because this really helps children (of any age) cope better with the transitions from one parent to another. If you and your partner are having difficulty talking to each other about visitation arrangements, or other matters related to your son, then I urge you to get some mediation to try to sort things out.
With regard to temperament, children who are more outgoing and calm will find transitions from one parent to another much easier than children who are anxious or 'slow to warm up', so your child’s temperament should be taken into consideration when you and your son’s father are deciding on visitation arrangements.
My advice is for your child’s father to see your child very regularly when he is home, for short periods of time (1-4 hours). Ideally these short periods of time should include practical tasks and care of your son, like feeding him and bathing him. I think it’s fine that your son hasn’t spent any time away from your home yet given his age, and this is something that can be worked towards.
If you’re still comfortable with your son’s father coming to your home, you could start to allow them to have some time together while you’re not there. It’s important that your son’s dad does take part in the care of your son, and doesn’t just come over to play (although play is great too!).
Their time together could gradually build to the time when your son spends some time at his dad’s house. This might not be for a few months because your son is coming up to the age when some separation anxiety is very normal, and being away from you might cause distress.
Overnight stays away from home could start from the age of about two, and this might be once a week when your partner is home.
I would also advise you to work on a parenting plan with your ex-partner. Click here for information on that.
I hope that this is helpful, and all the very best.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.