Moving back and forth between homes during a divorce or separation brings a heightened jumble of feelings and anxiety for all involved. There may be excitement to see a missed parent and a loved bedroom, sadness at leaving the other parent, and annoyance about the logistical gymnastics of having two homes.
Kids often misbehave during this time and parents worry it is a sign of a difficult visit with the other parent, or take it personally, believing their child isn’t glad to see them. The most common cause of acting out in the transition time is that the switch is hard—plain and simple.
Here are a few tips that have helped children and parents alike:
- Have an open dialogue with your child about how hard it is to go back and forth.
- Let them know that you realize they might be “grumpy” or not want to talk when they first get home.
- Meet outside for the transition between parents, for instance at the park, or at a diner, so that you and your child re-enter the house together
- Give them space. Respect their need to settle in and let them approach you.
- Don’t ask how their time was with the other parent right away. Let this emerge slowly and more organically.
- Create rituals. Some kids love to take a bath when they arrive, to relax, to “clear the slate.” Some like to have a snack, some need half an hour in their room.
- Handle your own guilt or sadness separately.
- Try to schedule plenty of time before bed, which for them is another separation.
Your understanding of how things look from their eyes will help them feel known, loved, and soothed.
© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies