Transitions are Tough

Divorce is a major life transition, with each member of the family facing unique challenges.  There are many areas where children have to adjust, new schedule, new home, new school, new family members, etc.  Then there are all the new transitions that children adapt to on an ongoing basis, as they go between homes.  Even though those transitions can become part of a routine and manageable, they can be incredibly difficult in the beginning or if mismanaged.  

Get your free co-parenting calendar you can use with your children here.

Lots of children struggle with transitions in general, like going to school, starting a new activity, etc.  There can be a lot of fear around transitions and the uncertainty that accompanies them.  The apprehension about upcoming changes or transitions can be even scarier than the actual change or transition itself.  While transitions can be stressful, apprehension about the transition can even be scarier than the change itself.  

Remember that it is normal for children to have a certain amount of distress around transitions.  That distress can increase with the added difficulty of adjusting to a new schedule, going between two homes, and being apart from parents for periods of time.  You can try to minimize it though by thinking about the way you handle these transitions.

If you are in the process of coming up with a parenting plan, or agreement, think about how you structure the children’s transitions between households.  Generally speaking, children usually transition away from a parent more easily when that parent drops them off.  Many children do well when their transitions between homes flows with natural transitions.  For example, the children leave from one parent’s home to go to school on Monday morning.  Then they go back to the other parent’s home, Monday afternoon after school.  

 When the transitions are at home, or another location where both parents are going to be present, agree on ground rules.  If tensions are high, even agreeing to basic things like who is going to get the child out of the car, etc. can minimize any misunderstandings or conflict.  Also, other than basic pleasantries, transitions are not the best time for conversations about co-parenting issues.  It might seem convenient, but if things escalate, it is in front of the children during an already stressful moment.

Instead, try setting up another way to communicate about the children.  For example, try setting a catch up phone call for a few hours after the transition.  That way the children are settled and aren’t privy to the adult conversation.  Or agree to share the information in a summary email or text message the day of the transition.  You can even make it as simple has having a physical notebook where you keep notes about the children while they are with you.  Then exchange the notebook as part of the transitions. 

If your children are struggling with transitions between households there are some techniques you can try to help them adjust.  Having a calendar where children are able to see the actual days that they are with each parent, is a helpful visualization, especially for younger children.  It can also provide children with a sense of predictability, allowing them to prepare for what is coming. 

Get your free co-parenting calendar you can use with your children here.

It is also important to consider how you are showing up during these transitions. How does your demeanor impact your children?  You can help ease the anxiety of the transition by remaining calm yourself, and keeping the actual transition short.  Let your children know when you are going to see them next, that you love them and will miss them.  But then make your exit.  If the children become upset, allow the other parent to calm the children.

Recognize that everyone in the family is going through a transition, give yourself some grace and be patient.  It may take some time to find a routine that works for your family.  

Allison McFadden is a Divorce and Co-Parenting Coach.  She has helped clients navigate divorce for over a decade, first as a family law attorney, and now as a coach.  Allison decided to focus exclusively on coaching because individuals should be in control of their own destiny, not the default, and decisions about children should be made by their parents.  Working together can help you navigate your divorce with purpose and dignity – learn how she can help you create a roadmap forward here.

This information is provided for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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