October 2006 -
When you share parenting with your ex, you spend a lot of
time transferring your child from one parent to the other. These transitions
can difficult, because not only do you have to interact with the other parent,
but you also have to help your child adjust to what can be really a big change
for him or her.
Transitions are stressful for everyone. You and your ex may butt heads, your
child may be resistant to whatever is supposed to be happening, and it’s
likely that someone is in a hurry. Take a deep breath and try not to get upset.
Exhibiting your frustration is just going to fuel the fire.
Stick with the Plan
It’s very difficult for children, particularly young children, to shift
gears. Your son may not want to go with his dad because he was having fun with
you. Kids don’t get to make visitation plans, so don’t change your
plans because there is whining. Everyone has to stick to the plan. It can be
really tempting to give in what your child wants because it seems like it would
just be easier. In the long run though, you’re teaching your child that
he can call the shots if he just throws a tantrum.
Save Discussions for Another Time
Many parents take transition time as an opportunity to work out changes to the
visitation plan, discuss child support, or argue about alimony. This is bad
timing. While you’re chewing each other out, your child is a captive audience,
taking it all in. The stress of the discussion is not missed by your child,
who internalizes it all. When you exchange your child, you should not be working
out all these other things. Do this at another time.
Keep It Short and Sweet
The longer the transition is, the more likely your child is going to have a
hard time with it. If she’s crying and you keep kissing and hugging her
and trying to calm her down or offer her bribes, you are simply reinforcing
her behavior. It’s terrific to give your child a kiss and a hug and say
a few happy words, but don’t let this turn into a half hour extravaganza.
It just makes it harder for everyone involved. Don’t dump and run though
either. Take a few minutes to exchange pleasantries with your ex and transfer
your child and her things.
Lay the Groundwork for the Future
If you and your child have a hard time saying goodbye, remind him when will
you see or talk to him next and tell him some things you’ll be doing when
you’re together next. This way you aren’t just disappearing. Do
this every time and you will help your child learn to bridge the gap. If he
knows exactly when he will see or talk to you again, he’ll have something
concrete to hold on to.
Create a Slow Re-Entry
If your child has a difficult time adjusting to coming back to you, take it
slow. Don’t jump all over him, asking what he did, where he went, does
he want ice cream now and so on. Some kids need an adjustment time, so just
having a relaxed car ride or some quiet time at home may be helpful to ease
these re-entry difficulties. The less frantic you are, the more relaxed your
child will be.