One of the most challenging parts of co-parenting, at least in the beginning, is transitioning children between their two homes. No one’s going to do it perfectly at first. Things will go wrong. Someone will run late occasionally, a school book or coat will be left behind or a child will have a tantrum when it’s time to leave. Everyone needs to cut each other some slack at the beginning and have some patience – maybe more than you ever thought you could muster.
As you settle in to your shared custody schedule, things should go more smoothly. In the meantime, here are some things that can help make these transitions easier – especially for your children.
Keep the kids up-to-date on the schedule
It’s good to have a copy of the parenting time schedule in each home where they can easily see it. Alternatively, they can download it to their phones. If the schedule changes for some reason (either the time or which parent is dropping off or picking up), let them know right away.
Don’t use these exchanges to hash out issues with your co-parent
There’s no surer way to make your child dread moving between homes than knowing that they’ll have to endure a fight between their parents. If you have an issue, call, text or email your co-parent later. Ask them to do the same if they bring up a problem that doesn’t have to be resolved then and there.
Minimize packing and unpacking
Children shouldn’t have to pack a suitcase when they move between homes. Not only does this make them feel like a visitor in one (if not both) of the homes, but it takes away from time that you could be doing things together.
They will likely need to bring some clothes – particularly if they are in one home less than the other. However, both homes should have enough clothes, books, toys and electronics that they feel like they belong there. If you can’t afford all of this, at least try have a room that’s all theirs, complete with favorite bedspread, sheets and night light, basic toiletries and some clothes even if they are only there on the weekends.
If you’re still working out your parenting plan, you may want to include some of these things there. Your family law attorney can provide valuable guidance as you develop a parenting plan and custody schedule.