Rituals are the actions we take to create patterns and rhythms in life. They are repetitive activities that make situations feel stable and safe. Depending on your kids’ ages, it’s important to create rituals to bring the child into the home, and prepare them to go to their other parent’s abode. The more we do to minimize our kids’ feelings of being bounced around, the less likely our kids will be shaken up. These are some suggestions to create healthy transitions for your offspring.
- Give kids a heads-up on the schedule, or any changes in the schedule. Kids are very sensitive to change, especially those kids who have two households. Let them know in advance about any changes, large or small, to weekly schedules. Outline vacations in advance, and get your child’s say in as many changes as possible. When my son was much younger, I made a calendar – one for each house – with his mommy days in one color and his daddy days in another. The calendars hung in his room in each home, so he could always check in and know what was happening. Any changes were consistently noted.
- Make one bag that commutes from home to home. Ask what your child would like to put in the bag – books, tablet, stuffed animals, phone. The bag is sacred. Parents share the list to the bag, and should help insure that the bag has its contents intact. This will spare upset and chaos and will create a sense of fluidity between homes.
- School – make sure both parents know where all things are at all times. Homework and school projects need to be communicated about, and teachers need to know that there are two households, so they can send home two sets of permission slips, newsletters, etc. Online calendars, such as Cozi or Google are great ways for everyone to stay on the same page.
- Have special things you do together at your house – movie night, baking bread that can go in the lunchbox, having a parent/kid slumber party, walking the dog, going to a favorite restaurant, reading a series of books together, spending time with special family friends. Make your time with your child special and unique. This will form lasting bonds, and help your child remember time with you fondly.
- Listen to the wisdom of your child. They often know exactly what they need. For example, my nine-year old told me point blank that he didn’t want play-dates on our first day back together. He made it very clear that this was sacred reconnecting time. I’d be a fool to pass that up.
- Integrate your child into more mundane life activities, such as shopping, going to the post office, or getting an oil change. It’s tempting to do these things on your “off” days, but it’s important for your child to experience “real life” and gain the valuable lessons associated with day-to-day errands.
- Don’t drop-and-dash. If your transitions are not school-based, have some tête-a-tête time with your child at his other parent’s home, and, if possible, have some casual, pleasant conversation with your ex in front of your child. This will ease tension and stress for your kid and give him ample time to transition comfortably.
- Never, ever, ever, ever, ever discuss custody in front of your child. It is very easy for a child to get the sense that one parent may not “want” her, despite what you may actually be saying. Save these conversations for email or at a café when your child’s not around.
- During drop-off and pick-up from the other parent, zip it when it comes to criticism. Little cutting remarks are like arrows in your child’s psyche. And if it’s given, don’t give it back. Take a deep breath, and take the high road. Your child will thank you.
- Don’t overcompensate by plying your child with sweets and gifts when they return to you after an absence. Though this may be tempting, your affection and attention are all your child really needs. Plus, you really don’t want to be raising a little Veruca Salt. No bueno.
Making a seamless transition for your kids by utilizing this practical advice from your friends at Solo Parent Magazine will help your children flourish amid change. And healthy kids are our end game, right?