Whether you’re still working out your custody agreement with your co-parent or you already have it in place, the reality of it is not as black and white as the words on the page. Even when both parents abide by the parenting schedule, transitioning kids between homes takes some getting used for everyone.
Regardless of whether you both have relatively equal time with your child or one of you is the primary caregiver, how the two of you deal with these transitions can have a big effect on how your child handles them. That’s particularly true with younger children, who often look to their parents for cues about how to feel.
Some simple things can help make these transitions go more smoothly for everyone. Let’s look at just two:
Keep the packing and unpacking to a minimum
Your child shouldn’t feel like a visitor in either of their homes. That’s why it’s best if they can have some clothing, toys, electronics and books in both homes. They definitely shouldn’t have to pack toiletries and inexpensive items that you can easily both keep on hand.
The less time they have to spend packing and unpacking, the more time they’ll have with each parent. Further, this minimizes the time they have to work up any anxiety they have about the transition.
Save your issues with your co-parent for another time
Even if these changeovers are the only time you see your co-parent, this isn’t the time to remind them they owe you a support payment or still need to find your child’s retainer. Do that before or after the transition. If your co-parent has shown up late (or early), don’t chastise them about it in front of your child.
If you and your co-parent can’t yet manage to be amicable to each other, find a trusted friend or family member to transport your child. If your child is old enough and it’s safe, you may want to let them go the last few yards on their own.
It can take some time to get these transitions down. You have to expect that things will be left behind and sometimes one of you will be a little early or late. By having a detailed parenting plan and clear schedule in place, you should have fewer causes for conflict and confusion.