1) Make the transition a positive experience. No matter what you feel towards your ex or their girlfriend etc., keep those feelings aside momentarily and make it about your kids. Whether you’re picking them up or dropping them off for a visit, be enthusiastic about the changeover.
Your kids will pick up on the energy and if the dynamic becomes negative or tense they will more than likely resist going. If you’re OK with the situation, then there is a high chance your kids will be too.
2) Take your time with the transition. If you’re picking your kids up after they have been away from you, take a little extra time to collect their belongings, allow them to say goodbye with ease to the other parent or even hear them out if they have things to tell you about their weekend or show you. Perhaps they have been to a party and have made something that will stay there, but they want to show you. Be interested and in the moment with them.
3) Allow your kids to talk when they are ready. Save the Spanish Inquisition. Your kids will tell you what they want in their own time. Your job is to create a safe environment around them, so that they can share with you what they need to.
They will decide what they want to disclose or not and it may not come at that very moment. It could be the following week. Or they might not have anything to share with you at all.
Be receptive and without judgment to what your kids share with you. Your kids feeling comfortable talking with you is healthy for their well-being. If they feel as though they are being questioned, it could have the opposite effect and they may clam up on you. If you hear something that concerns you, take it up with the other parent when you are alone.
4) Do something fun to reconnect with your kids. There is a break in the bond that you share with your kids when they are away from you, so find something to do that’s enjoyable to re-establish that connection between you.
When my kids were younger and were dropped off after a weekend away, I found that they would fall into a heap as soon as they got in the door. There would be a massive outpouring of emotions that became difficult at times to manage alone.
After some time, I realised that I was the parent and needed to do something different about it. It used to cause me so much stress because I had spent the weekend trying to be calm, but when the kids would come home I felt like everything was undone.
Now, whether I pick them up or they get dropped off we usually go to a park, play a game or cook something together, so we get a chance to come back together in a fun way.
5) Keep the adult conversations with the adults. If you and your ex need to discuss something that could get out of hand, save it until the kids are out of earshot. You know your patterns and triggers, so be prepared to step up and put into practice your personal boundaries.
Have your exchange over text or email and not in front of the kids. No kid wants their parents to be talking about them in front of them or hear their parents arguing about something like being late, or not returning clothing or toys or money that’s owed.
Keeping your emotions in check can be difficult. If you or the other parent messes up, try not to beat yourself up about it or make the kids pay for it. Realise your best intentions and take small steps each week to allow your kids’ needs to be paramount in these moments.
Later on when they are in bed, then you can scream into a pillow or release your frustration in a constructive way. It’s not easy to go back into the place you left behind or allow your ex into your safe haven, but it’s a momentary situation that will have a lasting impact on your kids’ lives, so try to do it well.