Transitions between households after their parents separate requires an adjustment for children. With shared parenting schedules, children no longer see both parents every day. Also, they need to adapt to the new surroundings if either parent moves.
Parenting changeovers, when the children transition from one home to the other, need special care. This is a time when children often feel emotional as they switch between co-parenting homes. But co-parents can smooth these transitions with a few guidelines for parenting changeovers.
Make Transitions Between Households Easier by Letting the Children Know What’s Next
Transitions between households are easier for children when they know what to expect. Parenting changeovers are generally scheduled in advance, so there is no reason to spring the surprise on the kids.
Being aware of a parenting changeover helps a child as they adjust to their new life in two houses. Knowing what to expect lessens anxiety and provides a sense of stability.
Keep children informed of their schedules by reminding them as early in the day as possible. The way you choose to inform them generally depends on how old they are. Most people (parents included) find a large wall calendar works well. For younger children, add stickers to mark parenting changeovers. Older kids and teenagers are likely able to access an electronic copy of the family schedule on their phones. Using the 2houses shared family app helps you keep track and allows older children to check the upcoming schedule directly. The shared family calendar app eliminates the risk of making a mistake by copying the calendar somewhere else.
Be sure to let kids know before any changes, temporary or permanent. But don’t discuss plans with the kids until everything is finalized. Plans being in flux can cause anxiety and feelings of insecurity in children of all ages.
Packing a bag to take between houses can make children feel like they don’t really belong anywhere. Don’t have them drag luggage along as part of parenting changeovers. Do everything you can to help them feel settled in both homes. Packing a suitcase makes things feel temporary. When they have only one set of belonging that they tote back and forth, there is always a danger of forgetting something. Talk about stress! This is even more true for short overnight stays mid-week or frequent transitions between households.
The first thing your child does when they come into your home should not be to unpack as if they are staying at a hotel. Get rid of the luggage, so they don’t feel like a visitor (at either home.) Co-parents can work to create an expectation that the kids have two homes instead of not having even one. So, make sure your children have clothing, toiletries, and other daily items in both houses.
Conflict-Free Parenting Changeovers
Nothing makes a parenting changeover more stressful for your children than conflict between their parents. It’s unlikely you and your co-parent will always agree. Still, when the children are making transitions between households, it is not time to work things out. Keep those conversations strictly private. Children are hyper-aware of parent emotions, tone, and body language, especially during parenting changeovers. Assume that if they are anywhere around, they can hear you.
Don’t Be Late
Nothing creates conflict during a parenting changeover than one parent being late. And, of course, it becomes impossible to hide your annoyance if they do it frequently. Transitions between two households are now a permanent part of your life for many years.
So, if you are running late, notify your co-parent as soon as you know. Don’t wait until you are already late and end up leaving them to wait for you for another half an hour.
Parenting time changeovers take some time to get used to. Work hard to make your children’s transition between households as smooth as possible. Keep the kids informed of the schedule, make both households feel like home, and protect them from co-parenting conflicts. Then you can help your children confidently settle into their new schedules.