Johnny’s soccer cleats are at Dad’s but he’s with Mom and has a game. Sally’s ballet shoes are at Mom’s but Dad is taking her tonight. Homework folders didn’t make it back to the right place. That school project due today is at the other parent’s home. Ugh! How can two households work together to make things easier on their kids after separation and divorce?
There are real struggles involved with having kids going back and forth to two households.
Having a good working relationship with your co parent is probably the single most important thing you can do to help your kids exist at two homes with as little turmoil as possible. Your kids will vary as to how well they handle the situation at all…some may be able to make it work seemingly easily, others may really struggle every time it’s time to switch. Patience and grace are important for them while they learn and adjust to this new routine. Some other things that you might want to think about:
>Packing, Unpacking, and Keeping Track
Make sure your kids have clothing and essentials at both homes so they don’t have to lug a giant bag back and forth. Help them to have a specific time they dedicate to unpacking and packing again, so that they are able to control the process and keep track of their favorite things. If you and your ex are able to afford it, have duplicates of specialty items like soccer cleats and ballet shoes just in case. Plus, this stuff can be heavy and cumbersome to bring back and forth.
If your child is taking the bus to school from your house, and then the bus home to your ex’s house, try to minimize the amount of things they have to carry. If possible, and if your relationship with your ex is of this nature, maybe you can drop all your child’s things at your ex’s while they are at school so your child doesn’t have to carry everything. There are some families who have a Mom Bag and a Dad Bag, that mom and dad both help the kids manage, so that the same things are going back to mom or dad each time. This can help avoid confusion and prevent all the clothing from ending up at one parent’s home.
>Space Just for Them
Allow your child to have photos of the other parent in their room. If you are decorating a new space, offer them the opportunity to say which colors they like, what type of quilt or blankets they want on their bed, or what is hung on their walls. They need to have a place that is their very own, where they can be comfortable. Kids need their own space at both homes where they can have an opportunity to speak to or video with the other parent in private.
>Time With You
Make them a part of things. Have them help plan meals for the time they are with you. Have them help make the grocery list, and ask them what they want for their lunches. Make sure they have their own water bottle at your place. Simple things really can make a difference in a kid’s life. If the family pets live with you, rather than going back and forth, give them special time to reconnect with them after they have been at your ex’s.
Try to work together to ensure similar routines at both homes. Work toward similar bedtimes, meal times, screen rules, and chore responsibilities. This may be easier said than done with a difficult ex, or if you are parallel parenting rather than coparenting. I get it. Just make this one something you can strive towards instead of something that has to be done immediately.
>Transitions are Important
Finally, make transitions easy for them. They don’t want you fighting every time they get dropped off or picked up. They are anxious enough about the prospect of missing one parent for the time they are away and don’t need that added stress. They don’t care about your issues. Be a grownup and find a time to discuss hot topics with your ex that aren’t at transitions for your kids. Your kids will appreciate it if you bring calm to the situation, rather than more chaos.
Remember, your goal is always to keep the kids as your central focus, rather than any feelings you might have about your ex. By keeping your focus on them, you will be able to make choices that help them navigate this new life that they are living, and hopefully bring them peace and calm in the process.
Have an idea or a process that worked well for your family? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about it! I’d love to hear from you!