Parent questioning during shared parenting time, whether supervised or not, can either engage a child or drive him or her away.
At Hannah's House, our 2 Home Kids professional monitors are trained to listen for questions that may violate a court order, FC 3200.5, or Administrative Rules of Court 5.20.
So which parental questions are OK, and which are not?
In general, questions should be asked in a way that does not limit the Child’s response to giving only specific information OR require the Child to provide details about the other parent's life/home!
Some of the examples below are based on the non-residential parent already having some information which they may have gotten from an administrative staff person during scheduling or from the Child during a phone call or during a visit, or from approved communication with the other co-parent:
OKAY (general & child-oriented)
How is school? What is your favorite subject? Did you have a good week at school? Did you have fun with your friends at school today? Are those new shoes - they look great?! Did you have a nice vacation? Did you doctor's appointment go okay? Hey, did you get a haircut - I love it?! Have you had breakfast/lunch/dinner yet - I thought we could eat?!
NOT OKAY (specific & detail-oriented)
Where do you go to school? What is your teacher’s name? Who brought you to the visit? Who gave you those shoes? Where did you go on vacation? Who went? How did you travel? Who cut your hair? Where did you eat lunch? What doctor did you go to? Who are your friends at school?
Children can initiate any topic they want during a supervised visitation, including information they should not give!! The Supervisor will try to redirect but sometimes the child's sharing happens very quickly and it feels completely normal to the child to speak freely to a parent.
If one parent has sole legal custody, we do not allow the Child to give any details about school, dentist, doctor, coaches, troop leaders, teachers, etc. even if the Child is the one initiating. This is critical when there has been domestic violence and the protected parent and child/ren may be at risk if detailed information is provided during a supervised visitation.
We gently but quickly interrupt the Child to prevent the disclosure. If Child discloses info, we write a note to the sole legal parent about it and pass it at end of visit to ensure safety and security.
In general, parents probably ask their children way too many questions. The very best way to engage a child and learn about his or her life is through play and activity together. Shared experiences build connection, trust, and emotional closeness. This is why we have family rooms at Hannah's House that encourage interactive play and activity. Games, art, sports, imaginative toys create opportunities for natural and spontaneous connections for families. So do things with your child every day! Play, imagine, create!