The transitions between two homes for children of divorce are inherently very difficult and stressful, even under the best of circumstances. Your child must leave one parent, one home, and many of their familiar things. There will always be one parent that they are missing, new rules and expectations to deal with, and the constant reminder that their family is forever changed.
When parents add to this stress with their inappropriate, emotion-driven behavior, the stress for your kids can become unbearable. The ABCs of peaceful transitions will show you exactly how to prevent unnecessary damage.
A: Avoid Conflict
You need to do everything within your power to avoid conflict with your ex during these transitions. This is not the time to be having difficult conversations, trying to resolve a disagreement, or discussing anything that has the potential to turn contentious. Your job is to create a calm atmosphere free from tension and animosity. You owe it to your kids! It will be a powerful way of protecting them from emotional damage.
One other suggestion: Do not involve your new significant other in the pick-up of your children! This is a guaranteed way of fueling conflict and tension and should be avoided whenever possible.
B: Be Prepared
Do not be scrambling at the last minute to get your child’s things together and pack them up. This is going to cause a lot of stress for them and will inevitably result in forgetting to include one of their favorite things. Start getting them ready an hour before pick-up time so it can be done in a calm and relaxed manner. This will allow them to be ready on time without a last-minute rush and will serve to avoid so much unnecessary stress.
For the parent picking up the child: be on time! There is nothing more painful than the sight of a child waiting at the window for their parent who is late or doesn’t show up at all. Given all of the instability in their lives right now, your children need you to be predictable and consistent, particularly at these transition times. Leave work on time, build in a buffer for traffic, and do everything within your power to be where you need to be at the time you need to be there.
C: Create Reasonable Rules/Expectations
It is so tempting to allow your painful emotions to spill into the transition process and to establish a set of unreasonable rules regarding your ex’s behavior. “Don’t pull into the driveway, don’t beep your horn, don’t come to the door”. These might be reasonable boundaries if there is a clear safety issue, but they are not reasonable if your only motive is to prove to your ex how much you despise them! This is the time to be focused primarily on how to make the transitions easier for your kids. Imagine how ideal it would be for them if their parent comes to the door, has a pleasant interchange with their other parent, they all say good-bye and wish the departing child a wonderful visit, and the parent leaves hand in hand with their child and they peacefully set off.
That is not some far-fetched co-parenting fantasy! You have the power to make it happen and it will be a huge step in protecting your kids from unnecessary emotional damage.