Co Parenting Time Transitions: Making the Handoff Less Stressful
When you have children, shared child custody and parenting time are some of the most important and challenging aspects of your post-divorce life. Experts – and the courts – agree that it’s in the best interest of the child to be brought up by both parents. But this is not always easy to do after a marital relationship has broken down.
If you and your ex can develop a parenting plan that works for you and find a way to make handoff time less stressful, the transition process can be far easier on you and the kids.
What are the hardest transitions a child might experience?
Divorce is difficult for the divorcing couple, but it can be even harder for the kids.
Younger children don’t understand what’s happening in the family and have a hard time verbalizing what they’re feeling. Older kids may seem like they’re handling it well, but they may just be good at internalizing their feelings.
Some kids even feel they’re somehow to blame for what’s happening. Depending on their temperament, each child will handle the divorce of their parents in a different way.
Why do children struggle with the parenting transition?
While most kids are resilient, they rely on structure and routine to make them feel safe and cared for. Not seeing Mom and Dad as a cohesive unit, not spending time together as a family, and having to move back and forth between them can easily upend their sense of security.
Moving between parents can be disruptive to the structure and routine children had in their lives pre-divorce. They will have to adapt to new surroundings when one or both parents have moved. Routines may be different for each parent, and boundaries can get temporarily misplaced as parents navigate their own post-divorce emotional landscape.
Smooth transitions are key whether it’s an overnight visit, regularly scheduled weekly or bi-weekly visits, or longer holiday visits. This is one way parents can help kids feel more secure post-divorce.
How can parents help with the child timeshare transition?
After divorce, children may feel emotional and vulnerable. Mindful parents can help make the transition between homes a little less scary.
Keep the handoff conflict-free
While this may seem like a no-brainer, emotions can run deep during a handoff for both parents and kids. Nothing can make the transition more difficult for the kids than conflict between the parents, even if it’s a grumbled response to each other. Kids are hyper-aware of their parents’ tone of voice, body language, and emotional vibe after divorce. Any conflict should be addressed away from the watchful eyes and ears of the kids.
Keep the kids in the loop
Once a parenting time schedule has been hammered out, children should understand the schedule so they know what to expect. This can help them feel respected, lessen their anxiety, and provide a much-needed sense of stability and involvement in the process.
Choose the right time and place for the handoff
While the best-case scenario may be a casual and happy pick-up from each other’s home, the relationship a couple has will dictate what works best for them. For school-age kids, having the other parent pick them up from childcare or school can help keep the situation neutral. In some cases, parents might choose to find a public and less emotionally charged place like a park for the handoff.
Respect everyone’s time
When one parent is continually late or changes plans at the last minute, it can be hard for the other parent to hide their annoyance, no matter how patient they are. While this is difficult enough for the adults involved, it’s even harder for the kids who need as much routine as possible after divorce.
Have essentials permanently in both homes
Moving between homes isn’t like going on vacation. Unfortunately, living between two households can leave kids without knowing where “home” is and can make it hard for them to feel settled. Parents should actively work to make both places feel like home as much as possible. This includes having clothing, toiletries, and other familiar items in both places.
What day of the week is best for the parenting time transition?
Each family will have its own natural schedule to work around, especially as kids get older and have outside activities. While many parenting transitions happen on Fridays because of school and work schedules, parenting time schedules can be adapted to each family.
When negotiating parenting time, you will want to consider your and your ex’s personal commitments and responsibilities, any logistical constraints, the ages of your kids, and their level of comfort in the transition. Use this information to devise a schedule that works best for you, your ex, and, most importantly, your children.
Conflicts often arise regarding parenting schedules and handoffs. You’re not alone. But overcoming them as much as possible helps kids feel safe, secure, and cared for during and after divorce.
At Hello Divorce, we can help you navigate co-parenting issues to make this time less bumpy for everyone. Whether you need a mediation session to fine-tune parenting plan details, an hour of professional legal advice, or a full divorce package, let us help guide you on the road to your new future.
Co-parenting? You've got this.
And our free download can help.