How you can make custody transitions less stressful for your kids – and you

One of the most challenging aspects of co-parenting after separation or divorce is transitioning children between homes. Whether one parent has the kids the majority of the time and the other only has them on the weekends or the custody split is 50-50, how you and your co-parent handle these changeovers can have a huge impact on your kids’ adjustment to living in two households.

Let’s look at a few things you can do to make these transitions between homes less stressful and more positive for your children – and for you.

Make sure your kids know the schedule: Children like to know what to expect. Have your parenting schedule easily available in each house for the kids to see. If they’re old enough, let them put it on their phone. If the schedule changes, make sure you tell them as soon as possible.

Make the transitions conflict-free: Don’t save your issues with your ex to discuss while you’re dropping off your children. Stony silence isn’t a whole lot better. If you and your co-parent can’t yet bring yourselves to be amicable for a few minutes at a time, find a trusted family member or friend to transport the kids or (assuming they’re old enough) don’t take them all the way to the door. If your co-parent is always running late or showing up early to pick up the kids, that can be extremely frustrating, but talk to them about it later.

Minimize packing and unpacking: Nothing makes a child feel like a visitor like having to pack up clothes, toiletries, electronics, toys and books and unpack them again as they move between homes. While you can’t keep a full wardrobe and duplicates of everything in both homes, try to keep as many things as possible in both of your houses. It’s best when kids have a room that’s all theirs and decorated with their favorite bedding, wall hangings and more in each home.

It takes time for everyone to get used to these transitions, and a little patience can make things easier for everyone. School books and favorite belongings will inevitably be left behind. Occasionally, one of you will be running late. Chances are, everyone’s doing their best. If you’re experiencing serious issues with these changeovers that are impacting your children’s well-being, your family law attorney can be an excellent source of advice.