When children transition from one parent’s house to the other parent’s house, it is often a stressful time. It is important to include information on transitioning your child from home to home in the Parenting Plan.
Children are thrust into a different environment that frequently alters their normal routine. They will often feel a loss of control while trying to handle various emotions brought on by the dissolution. There are a few techniques parents can utilize to ease the stress on the children, as well as the entire family unit, while still maintaining rules and boundaries. These techniques can be crafted for children of all ages.
Ideally, after the custody order is in place the parents can have a discussion and formulate a Parenting Plan. This Parenting Plan would encompass rules at each parent’s home, disciplinary actions, bed times, grooming habits, and each child’s responsibility with chores.
If the custody situation is acrimonious, it is still important either through email or with the help of a therapist for the family to come to an agreement on a Parenting Plan. Children need structure and consistency to be successful in life. This need is more critical when the family is no longer intact.
After the Parenting Plan is formulated the parents can pick a time and place to have a family meeting. In this meeting, the parents would open up a discussion with the children about the Parenting Plan and ask the children for their input. The more involved the children are in the discussion, the chance of success increases. This success can occur even if the children are not in favor of some of the rules.
When the exchanges occur, the parents should have a brief conversation to ease the facilitation of the exchange. For example, Parent A would say to Parent B, “Today Johnny received an A on his reading test. Johnny why don’t you tell Parent B about the test.” This interaction illustrates to the children that the parents, although no longer a couple, can still be civil with each other. It also illustrates to the children that they cannot manipulate either parent or pin one parent against the other, because the parents are interacting and discussing the children.
If both parents are not present at the exchange, or if the children are picked up at school by the receiving parent, the parents should do their best to have a phone conference to discuss events that occurred while the children was in the other parent’s care. A good time for this conference would be shortly before bed to allow the parent who does not have the children in their care to say goodnight. It also helps younger children adapt and ease the situation particularly if one child is attached to one parent versus the other.
Regardless of the personal feelings that parents involved in a dissolution may feel towards each other, it is in their children’s best interest emotionally to see the parents still communicate cordially. This open dialogue provides for an easier transition for children while demonstrating a united front from the parents.
Written by Jennifer Gerard, Esq.