The switch day between co-parents can be tricky to navigate and there can be unpredictable emotions from all parties involved (yourself included). So how can you prepare? Should my ex drop them off? Should I pick them up? Should we meet in the middle? What if the kids don’t want to switch?
Often, families choose to have one parent drop off the kids at school and the other parent pick them up. That can be an easy way to do it, but as many of us are doing school remotely, it’s less available. I wanted to share some of the tips I’ve learned and adopted to make our switch day easier—and even feel special.
1. Pay attention and keep it light
When you are greeting your child after a time away, give them your full attention. It is not an appropriate time to be on the phone or finishing an email. Show your child you are excited to see them and save any important discussion with your co-parent for another time.
2. Choose a neutral location
Experiment with meeting somewhere neutral like a park or playground. If possible, it can be nice for both parents to stay for a little while before swapping out.
3. The first few minutes matter
If you meet somewhere neutral or even if it is at your home, make those first few minutes in your space special. It can be a good ritual for kids to put any items—backpacks, stuffies, etc.—in their places. My daughter always “puts her lovey to bed” when she gets home. When kids enter a new space and know what to do, it can ease their anxiety. Even having a puzzle out or their cars set up and ready to play with can help to buffer big emotions.
4. Build in rituals
Building family rituals and traditions are important for all families but can be vital for co-parenting families. Having rituals around the switch day can make kids and parents feel more at ease.
While the kids are putting their things away and getting settled back in, I make herbal (and kid-approved) tea for our weekly tea time. It can be a relaxing, special time we all look forward to. I try not to ask too many questions about “what they did at dad’s house” but instead make this space a time to listen to what they have to share, plan our week, or even just make-up stories together. This 15 minute dedicated time together has become a special ritual for our family.
3 Things to Avoid at Co-Parent Drop-Offs
1. Dragging out goodbyes
It can be tempting to relish in your child begging you to stay or saying they want to go back to your house, but it is helpful to have some good eye contact and express excitement for all the fun they are going to have with their other parent.
2. Having a tight schedule
I try to allow for plenty of flexible time on the switch day to avoid additional stressors of rushing to an appointment in the midst of the transition.
3. Taking things personally
Kids like to talk about the differences between each home and this articulation is an important part of their processing. They might say things like, “but mom lets us do that” or “dad’s food is better” and even the dreaded, “I only want to live at mom (or dad’s) house.” Remember, these are not meant to be hurtful. They are observations and are our child’s self-expression. It is our duty as the adult to not shut them down or get emotional, but to be a calm listener and steady parent.
Read More: “Some Days It’s Incredibly Difficult”— One Mom Reveals What It’s Like to Co-Parent With an Ex