When divorced parents share custody of their kids, they can both stay involved in their lives. However, moving back and forth between their parents’ homes can be stressful for kids if parents don’t work to ease these transitions and bring some consistency to their lives regardless of which residence they’re in.
Parents can help ease this anxiety for their kids and make things more peaceful for themselves if they’re committed to maintaining this consistency across their households and the transitions themselves.
It’s important for parents to pinpoint exactly when their child is getting anxious or upset. Is it when they first arrive in one home or the other or when they’re preparing to leave? Does it happen more in one home than the other? Do they feel better if they engage in a game or other activity or when they’re given some time alone? Considering these things will help you take the most effective steps to help your child.
Rituals can be soothing. If it’s arriving at the home that upsets your child, for example, create a ritual for that initial period. Find an activity your child enjoys that the two of you can do as soon as they walk in the door. Maybe it’s playing with the dog, working on a puzzle or just decompressing in front of the TV for a bit. If your child prefers some time alone in their room, give them their space. Don’t feel like you need to fill every moment with activity if you don’t see your child as often as your co-parent.
Consistent expectations across both of their homes are important, too. Likely, you and your co-parent have different parenting styles. However, there should be priorities you agree on, like getting homework done, making beds and how much junk food is allowed. Kids need to know what’s expected of them.
If you’re encountering problems with your child’s transitions between homes that you believe warrant a change to your custody and visitation agreement, talk with your family law attorney to determine what kind of options you might want to consider.