Exercising parenting time after divorce or separation can present a number of challenges, even if you and the other parent get along. One such challenge is the potential for conflict and heated emotions that can arise during parenting time exchanges. However, there are several things that you can do to minimize the potential for drama.
Preparing for exchanges can alleviate a great deal of stress for you and your child. Have a checklist of items that you should have ready to give to your child or, depending on your child’s age, directly to the other parent including:
- Security items like a blanket, favorite toy, or stuffed animal
- Equipment and uniforms for extracurricular activities
Make sure you give yourself some time to pack everything prior to the exchange. Trying to gather everything at the last minute could make it easy to forget something, which could lead to frustration and annoyance during or after the exchange.
If you feel that your ex may trigger negative emotions, try to mentally prepare. Meditate, take some deep breaths, plan a fun activity for yourself after the exchange, or practice other ways to navigate an emotionally stressful situation. Doing so can make exchanges go more smoothly and set a great example for your child.
Set (and respect) boundaries
Whether you pick up and drop off your child at each other’s homes, the child’s school, or a safe, neutral location, setting boundaries is crucial. As parents, you can commit to:
- Not entering each other’s homes
- Minimizing conversation
- Not bringing new partners along
- Keeping goodbyes quick and loving
- Refraining from discussing any hot-button or parenting-related issues
Exchanges are not the time to fight, push limits, or disparage each other. These situations can be difficult enough for children without having to witness negative behaviors from either parent.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is a key element in making exchanges less tense.
When it comes to communication, think about what expectations you have or what you appreciate in terms of communication from your co-parent. For example, provide timely updates regarding delays or changes in the schedule. You might also give the other parent a head’s up if your child is unusually upset or had an issue at school. Let your co-parent know if your child has a new medication and provide information regarding the purpose and dosing requirements. Sharing this type of information can prevent confusion and conflict.
You can also communicate with your child at an age-appropriate level to alleviate some of the stress or anxiety they might have. Explain the schedule to them so that they know what to expect; for example, mapping out on a home calendar the days your child will spend with you and the days they will spend with their other parent can provide consistency and comfort.
Contact our experienced attorneys at Beattie | Onorato for more information regarding child-related matters.