These days, many divorced parents have shared custody of their children. This gives both parents the opportunity to remain involved in their kids’ lives. However, it also typically requires kids to move from one house to another on a schedule that involves switching off every few days, alternating weeks or perhaps spending weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other.
Whatever the schedule you and your co-parent have worked out, how you and your co-parent handle these transitions can have a big impact on how well your children adjust to their new family dynamic.
As you’ve likely read and been told, it’s essential to keep these changeovers conflict-free. This isn’t the time to bring up late child support, your disapproval of your co-parent’s new significant other or residual issues from the divorce.
It’s also essential to stick to the schedule. If you’re due to deliver your child to your co-parent by 5 p.m. Friday, don’t be late unless it’s unavoidable. Likewise, if you’ve committed to dropping your child off at school Monday morning after a visit (with math homework done and science project completed), that’s your responsibility.
Another way to make these transitions easier for kids is to minimize how much they have to bring with them when they move between homes. Kids shouldn’t have to feel like they’re packing up their whole lives and carrying them in a backpack when they transition between parents. They should feel equally at home in both residences.
You may not be able to afford two sets of clothing for them, but at the very least, they should have some clothes, shoes, toiletries, toys and games in both places.
Make sure your children know what the custody schedule is. Depending on their age, you may want to have a paper calendar at both homes clearly marked with when they’ll be in each home. Older kids may prefer to keep their schedule on their phone or tablet. Keep changes to the schedule to a minimum, and make sure your kids are aware of any changes.
If your current custody and visitation arrangement isn’t working out or if you’re having difficulty with your co-parent not sticking to it, it’s important for your children that you and your co-parent resolve the issue as quickly as possible. If a modification or court intervention is necessary, talk with your family law attorney.