I am discussing custody transitions for children because, as hard as divorce can be on the parents, it can be even harder on the children. Only the parents can control how much their children will be impacted by the divorce. Over the years, it has been clear that the one of the hardest aspects of divorce on children are the transitions between parents.
While children can be resilient, it is very difficult for them to overcome a bad transitions because most children, especially younger ones, switch back and forth between homes multiple times each week. Remember, even if your child is looking forward to seeing you it may also be sad for them to say goodbye to the other parent.
Of course, eliminating as many parent-to-parent transitions is often best. If possible, one parent should drop the child off at daycare, school or camp and the other parent should retrieve them at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there are holidays and other instances when avoiding direct parent-to-parent transitions will not be possible.
Here are my tips to ease the transition:
1. Project positivity and do not manipulate your child.
If you are truly positive about your child going over the other parent’s home, they will feel better about going. Do not tell the child how much you will miss them in a way that makes them miss you more or makes them, worse yet, feel worried about your being along without them. You are a grown up, they should not be worried about you. Do not tell your child “you will survive your visit and while you are gone I will be going with your best friends to see your favorite movie. Too bad you cannot come, but your mother will not let you.”
2. Be on time.
Divorce can be tense enough without the added stress of a parent being late for drop off or pick up. If you are late retrieving your child, they may become anxious about whether you are coming to get them. If you are unavoidably late, call or text the other parent. Conversely, when the other parent arrives make sure your child is packed up and ready to go.
3. If you cannot get along, keep discussion to a minimum.
A transition is not the time to discuss a late child support payment or your disgust at the latest court filing. Be cordial and friendly so your child does not feel the tension. If the other parent baits you just ignore it. Do not engage. If your child is old enough, transitions can take place “curbside” so that you do not even need to see one another.
4. Send comfort toys.
If your young child clings to their beloved stuffed bunny when they are in distress, consider sending the bunny with them to the other parent’s house. It may sound silly but sometimes the continuity of sending a beloved toy can ease the transition. If the other parent refuses to send the toy back with your child see if you can get a “twin” bunny for each house.
5. Exchange in public.
This is my least favorite tip but sometimes it is unavoidable. If the other parent cannot behave or is threatening, exchanging in a public place, especially one with cameras, may be best. Also consider this option if you are being falsely accused of bad behavior. A caveat to this tip is avoid calling the police to your home unless someone is in actual danger.
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you would like to discuss your custody matter, here is how to get started.