Transitions between parents can be challenging, especially for younger children.
They start to feel settled and then it is time to move back again to the other parent’s place. One’s attitude sets the tone for these exchanges. If you cannot manage to be upbeat, then aim for neutral, without any putdowns or snide remarks.
Do not emulate some mums at my sons’ preschool who appeared to be on the verge of tears when parting. Very young children are already struggling with separation anxiety, so be especially positive.
A neutral drop off place is ideal if it was an acrimonious divorce. A day care or preschool can be a good choice with toddlers and is easier when both parents have car seats. These exchanges are more upsetting when kids see tense, angry parents trying to interact.
Children do better with set routines such as having consistent bedtimes at both locations. Even better is when mealtimes are in sync too.
The routine starts with packing and getting ready for the transfer. This helps with the mindset that he is leaving one place for the other. There may be a special story told or a goodbye song sung while getting ready to leave. The child might draw a picture to give mum or dad upon seeing them. My sons had a ritual of saying goodbye to our cats.
Children do not want to feel like visitors, so have them unpack right away. No one cares to live out of a suitcase, so give them their own space. In tight quarters, an empty drawer that only belongs to them is fine.
Some parents come up with a new welcome back ritual when their children return from visitation. This gives them something to anticipate immediately. It may be that after dad gets the youngsters, they go to Gran’s for supper.
My stepmother had pizza and we watched fun shows on the telly.
I looked forward to this Friday night transition. Mum might have homemade cookies when the kids get back. The children then transition into a fun, anticipated activity or treat. Upon return, other kids just want to chill out and regroup. They may require their space before starting with an activity or interaction. Give them time and do not bombard them with questions. Respect privacy and do not ask about the visitation.
School children told me that one of the most difficult parts of visitation is the transitions. They wanted to see both parents, just not the going back and forth.
Transitions are easier if your child is calm. Bach’s Flower Rescue Remedy is a fast acting stress reliever that is perfect to give children before visitation to ease the transition. It comes in drops or pastilles form. I gave a tin of pastilles to my younger son to take with him before visitation. He was responsible enough to take the recommended dose and could discreetly pop one in his mouth as needed.
You could also put a few drops in your child’s mouth before leaving. A cup of chamomile tea is relaxing and so is a squirt of lavender facial mist. My son also likes a shoulder or neck message when he is tense.
If transitions are a big problem then consider seeing a divorce coach. She can determine if longer visitation time with each parent is more beneficial or explore other options. She will interview the child and parents to see if a better plan can be made.
One possibility is that the child is at one parent’s house for a longer time with the other parent picking up the child for part of a day or evening, in between visitations. Often as children get used to switching houses, they become more accustomed to transitions. The children enjoy their special time with each parent.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.
She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.