When a child moves between divorced or separated parents, he or she can experience some sadness, guilt and stress, especially when the arrangement is in its early stages. Parents can also struggle with the emotional challenges of this complicated transition.
However, there are a few steps parents can take to make the experience and process of custody exchanges easier for their children and themselves.
- Be respectful. This means showing up to exchanges on time and prepared. Showing up late — or not showing up at all — is not just frustrating for the other parent, it can also hurt a child’s feelings. In serious cases, it could also be reason to seek legal action or call the authorities. Respecting your ex and your child by complying with court orders or agreements can make this difficult process easier.
- Keep communication cordial. If you are going to be late, give the other parent as much notice as possible. The same applies if you need to change the location. And avoid bringing up any topics at an exchange that could cause a fight. Instead, keep communication brief and amicable.
- Think about your child’s experience. A child may be upset about leaving one parent or worried about making the parent they are leaving sad. This can create a lot of stress and turmoil for a child. Think about this during exchanges. It might help the parent picking up the child to bring an item that’s comforting for the child. The parent dropping a child off might make a special effort to be positive. Both parents should be aware of their child’s experience and focus on making it as peaceful as possible for him or her.
In most cases, keeping these suggestions in mind can help to make exchanges easier and less stressful. However, in high-conflict parenting relationships, there may need to be more safeguards and legal measures in place to protect a child and parental rights to custody and access. Discussing such matters with a lawyer can be wise.
Over time, custody exchanges can become less stressful for everyone involved. Until then, parents would be wise to prioritize being reliable, respectful and focused on doing what is in the best interests of the child.