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October 2006 - Transitions

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.

Remain Calm
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.





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