If you and your soon-to-be ex are sharing custody of your child, you’ll likely discover that transitioning them between homes can be one of the most difficult parts of co-parenting. These transitions aren’t just difficult for kids. They can be tough on parents. In fact, many kids’ anxiety about moving between homes is caused by parents who let their own feelings about being away from their child or about their co-parent get in the way.
In addition to not passing on your negative feelings and anxieties to your child, there are a few simple things all parents can do to make these transitions easier on their child.
Clarity and consistency
You’ve probably read or heard a lot about the importance of sticking to routines in helping children adjust to their parents living apart. That’s why it’s wise to develop a parenting schedule as soon as possible after you’re separated. It doesn’t have to be your finalized custody schedule, but it can help your child know what to expect.
Make sure your child has a calendar with the schedule of where they’ll be on any given day. Depending on your child’s age, this can be a paper calendar in their rooms in each home or one on their phone or laptop. Sticking to that schedule, whenever possible, can help your child feel secure with their new routine.
Minimize packing and “good-byes”
If your child is moving between homes regularly, they shouldn’t feel like they’re “leaving home” when they’re just going to their other home. They shouldn’t have to pack a suitcase. Of course, that means keeping clothing, toiletries, electronics and other essentials for your child in each home.
If your child will be back in your home in a matter of days or less, don’t make a fuss of saying good-bye or telling them you’ll miss them. Speak positively about their upcoming time with their other parent and let them know how/when you’ll be in touch. Don’t make them feel like you’ll be sitting home alone bereft at their absence.
Keep transitions cordial
The main reason many kids dread transitions is that this is when their parents are face-to-face, they start fighting. Keep your interactions with your co-parent brief and cordial. This isn’t the time to discuss your divorce or custody issues.
As noted, working out a parenting schedule as soon as possible can help you, your child and your co-parent adjust to parenting across two homes. This can be one of the first things you discuss once you have sought sound legal guidance and crafted your approach accordingly.