One of the most difficult parts of co-parenting after separation or divorce for kids is moving back and forth between homes. When kids react with tears, tantrums or just plain intractability when it’s time to move from one home to the others, it can leave parents guilt-ridden and frustrated. Often, they assume the other parent is doing something their child doesn’t like or saying negative things about them.
Leaving the home they’ve grown up in to spend time at a parent’s new (and usually smaller) home can be frightening for young children. Older kids may simply resent the disruption to their lives.
Tips for easing transitions
You and your co-parent can do some things to ease these transitions for your children and make the process easier and less stressful for you as well. Let’s look at a few:
- Keep the transitions conflict-free. This isn’t the time or place to discuss support or other issues with your co-parent. If you can’t muster a friendly conversation with your ex, opt for a quick and cordial handover.
- Limit how much your child has to pack. Your child should feel at home in both of your residences. It’s best when they can have enough clothes, toiletries, books, toys and other belongings in both homes that they don’t have to spend a lot of time packing and unpacking every time they transition.
- Make sure your kids know the schedule and stick to it unless you absolutely have to make a change. Be sure they have a copy of it, whether it’s a paper calendar with stickers or a co-parenting calendar they can put on their phone.
In addition to keeping the schedule consistent, it’s important for both parents to be on time. Some parents show up late to pick up their children or don’t have them ready when the other parent arrives to pick them up to punish their ex. They’re simply causing more stress and uncertainty for their children.
Transitions typically get easier as time goes on. If you’re struggling with them in the early days of co-parenting, you can include some provisions in your parenting plan that will codify expectations for both you and your co-parent in handling these exchanges.