Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mom to Dad and Back Again - Easing the Transition

Divorced parents are not the same as single parents.

Single parents are those who have either chosen to have their child without a partner OR those who have been left widowed. Single parents have their own set of issues and to deal with, but they are not burdened with co-parenting dilemmas.

Like it or not, divorced parents are CO-parents-particularly if they share custody of the children. What happens at dad's house does not disappear when the kids are at mom's. Rules, routines, discipline, even FOOD are different at each home. It might be difficult for a four year old to remember that it's ok to eat on the sofa a daddy's but not a mommy's... And with a schedule that has meant a shift every other day, MY children are really having a hard time of it.

Yes. Due to their dad's new teaching schedule, and our commitment to 50/50 custody, the children are sleeping Monday & Wednesday at Dad's and Tuesday and Thursday here. Still switching off Fri/Sat/Sun. It's not working.

Changing this schedule will mean that the kids will be with me a bit more than with their dad, but I believe it will end up being better for them. Making the transition is hard enough without having to do it every single day.

OH - the transition ... it's not just a changing of the guards, a handing off of responsibility.... It's bigger. Remember the KIDS. They have to adjust their entire being to live in a different home with an entirely different set of rules.

Over the last year I've learned some techniques to help ease transition days. Listed here are five that I find particularly helpful:

1. Be waiting for their arrival with a big smile and open arms.

2. Do not take it personally if they are grumpy or whiny or angry upon arrival. They (especially older kids) are pissed that you guys separated in first place and put him into this position of having to switch houses every day. Additionally, they could have been up all night, or doing errands all day ... you need time to gauge their moods and adjust accordingly.

3. Give them an hour to just chill out in their room or play with their toys. They need time to make the place their own again - they've been gone for many many hours. Sometimes days. They must make sure things stayed the same while they were gone. Consistency, when available, is vital.

4. Do not have guests on the transition days. The kids, even if they don't say it, really just want to spend time with you alone. To be with the parent they've been missing and to have that parent all to themselves.

5. Be prepared for the worst (overtired, grumpy, unhappy child). If the child comes home well-rested and happy, it's a bonus.

What do you do to help ease this kind of transition for your kids? What can you add to the list?


  1. I'm curious, do you frequently have "I forgot it" moments, or have you figured out how to avoid them?

  2. I keep thinking the adults should be the ones to trade. Let the kids stay in their home. Mommy and Daddy can pack up and switch back and forth. I almost think it could work.

  3. Rey - do you mean "oops I forgot my homework at daddy's"? No. Not yet.

    Marya - what you are talking about is called "bird nesting" and it can be done but is very difficult. Think about it - unless you can afford two apartments (one for each parent) and one house for the kids, you are basically still living together (sharing a studio apt and a house) you're just never in the same place at the same time .... we considered it. Didn't come close to working for our situation.

  4. That's a good list.

    #1. I always pick-up, drop-off. I really don't want to over-analyze this point, so I won't. I'm try to always be up-beat when I pick them up. Hair-toussle for "Buddy" and a complement for "Sweet Pea". I let them settle in to the car, and if silence, I usually spin-up a conversation with my son. Daughter is likely to chime in with corrections. ;) Then the fun ensues. :) No, really. It's good fun. I occasionally have to referee, but they really do love each other a TON.

    #2: Bingo.

    #3: I noticed that early on as well. My apartment isn't all that functional for three. I need to fix that by the end of this year; paycheck willing.

    #4: Oops. Broke that one last month. 5 people, 1br/den apartment. Snug.

    #5: Been very lucky on this one. Many years to go yet, though.

    I've tried to not refer to their mother's house nor my apartment as "home". I want them to think of time with me OR their mother as "home". Not sure how that flies.

    You've covered it well. Hardest part for me is dropping them off. Hurts every time. Big hugs always from my son. "Teenager" hug from Sweet Pea. heh.


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