Transitions for co-parents are challenging. Because these transitions usually happen when two people are going through separation and breakup or divorce, they are often more complex because of hurt feelings and the general difficulties of the time. But if you can, it really helps to stick with some basic, no nonsense rules for transitions that will benefit your children.
Children who have grown up in divorced family situations talk about transitions as usually being miserable and full of anxiety. When parents use transitions to argue, exchange information or express their unhappiness at their ex, it puts the children in the middle of the conflict. It’s easy to end up doing that, and you can’t control what your ex does, but you can make a decision to follow these guidelines, and be responsible for your part.
In our last blog, we talked about why and how to create comfort and reliability around the transitions for children when they are leaving and coming back to a parent. This week, we want to talk about how these transitions themselves can work, and what you want to focus on, whether the other parents does are not.
- See every transition as a chance to show your children how much you love them. Because you love them, you are not going to fight with their other parent.
- Have them ready to go. If the other parent is coming to your house, have children’s items packed and ready to go. Do not make the other parent wait. It is hard on your children.
- Keep transitions short. Offer one quick goodbye hug or kiss. You should have already said your long goodbyes. If needed, help the other parent get the things to the car.
- Fake it until you mean it. Tell the children to have a good time. Don’t act like you will be unhappy without them. Do you really want your children to be miserable at the other parent’s house? No, we don’t want our children to feel that we can’t be happy without them or that they can’t be happy without us.
- Be on time if you are picking up the children from the other parent. If you are late, text and let them know and offer an apology. Generally, you should be able to go to the door and knock or ring the doorbell, so you can help with any belongings. Honking the car disturbs the neighbors and may embarrass your children or come off as rude. If the children are older, it may be okay to text them you are there. If the other parent gets really nervous or anxious, it may be better to text and then wait outside the car to greet your children. Do not go inside the house.
- Be amicable. Speak to other parent courteously and warmly. Say their name, be sincere and be courteous. Ask how they’re doing, but keep the conversation short.
- Avoid discussions about, money, plans or medical issues. If they do start talking about such topics, just say, “Let’s talk about that later” in the nicest way possible and smile. Do not get upset as that will upset your children. And then say, ‘We have to go now.”
Practice makes perfect and you will have lots of opportunities. You will make mistakes, but your children need you to keep getting better at this. And one day, they will thank you. So please, don’t give up.