With Christmas coming quickly upon us, there are millions of children, parents and co-parents dreading the upcoming kid swap for the school break. During the Christmas season the exchange of children is not only stressful for the children it can be very stressful for the adults as well.
It’s not uncommon for a child to not want to go with the other parent especially if that parent is not in the child’s life on a regular basis due to circumstances such as out-of-state job. It’s heartbreaking when the visiting parent has to pull their child out of their mother or father’s arms and put them in your car while they are kicking and screaming. Children don’t want to hurt the visiting parents feelings but in that moment they can sense the impending separation and awkward tension between their parents and cannot think beyond their own immediate wants. In most circumstances 1/2 mile down the road the child will stop crying and quickly turn his/her love and affection towards the parent that has just picked them up.
I witnessed this with my friend Bob the other day. He went to pick up his daughter who just turned 5 and she was crying and clinging to her mommy and saying “I don’t want to go”. She wouldn’t look at him, she wouldn’t answer him, and as he saying “Daddy will take you to Disney, Daddy’s got you presents, Do you want to go with daddy? Daddy loves you .” She answered, “No”! Heartbroken and upset he changed his mind and handed the child back to her mother and said “I can’t do this to my child”. Fortunately, I was with him and insisted that he put her back in the car, that she would be fine in 15 minutes, and it was best for her to spend time with both parents. I reassured him that this is very normal. Also, fortunate for him, her mom was saying the same thing, as tears were streaming down her face as well. He finally decided to listen, put her back in the car, kicking and screaming, and drove away feeling like a horrible dad. Not even five minutes later she said she was hungry and wanted to play with her new toys that he got her. The world seemed to be fine again.
Sounds familiar? It was all-too-familiar to me. Of course, there’s more going on and as we know that no two situations are the same. In this case Bob is one of my best friends and one of the best dads that I know. He works out-of-state and sometimes several months pass between visits.The situation strains the swap even more. If you share a similar experience with your children, you are not alone. Here are 5 tips on how to avoid the heartbreaking holiday kid swap with your children:
1) Be courteous. Always be courteous to the other co-parent in front of child. When the child is crying never say to the other parent “look what you’ve done to him/ her.” “This is all your fault.” “I hope you’re proud of yourself.” the tone in your voice can scare your child even more. And children will usually be afraid of someone who’s being mean to their mom/dad.
2) Choose a neutral location. If possible, choose a neutral location to do the exchange. A restaurant, parking lot, grocery store, grandparents home, etc… or, if you have had volatile exchanges in the past with your ex, then choose to meet at the police station to avoid confrontations. Most police stations have a phone in the waiting room where you can ask an officer to witness the exchange. A neutral location will help your children feel less threatened by the impending separation.
3) Don’t take it personal. Try to take emotion out of the equation and don’t take it personally when the child does not want to go with you. Although this is hard, it is a must for you to remain consistent and not scare the child more. Nor do you want to make your child feel guilty for crying. At that age they’re not able to set their emotions aside.
4) Prepare your child in advance. If you’re the parent handing over the child/children, prepare the child with encouragement and help them feel safe and secure going to the other parent’s home. I know this is not always possible but do the best you can. Some children never get over the anxiety of leaving mom or dad. I know my daughter did not. Try not to add fuel to the fire.
5) Engage your child. Once you are away from the other parent’s home, engage in conversation that gets them thinking of other things. Ask them about their pets, day at school, who their best friend is or what they have been doing this week. Be patient with them and talk softly to let them know you care about their feelings and help them understand that their feelings are normal.
For more tips on how to deal with heartbreaking kid swaps, “Mom’s House, Dad’s House” by Isolina Ricci is an excellent resource. Click here to buy the book now: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0684830787
I hope I’ve encouraged you to make the swap of your children as stress-free as possible for the sake of your children and for your sanity as well. Co-parenting can be challenging but by taking a step back and understanding why your children are afraid will help ease the stress of the transition.
Merry Christmas and thanks for following us,
Tracy Taylor, CEO/Founder My Turn Your Turn
Visit us on our official website at http://www.MyTurnYourTurn.com. My Turn Your Turn is a co-parenting website designed to help organize families and improve communication between co-parents sharing children due to divorce or separation. Specializing in co-parenting tools and shared parenting resources including an online custody calendar, online divorce journal, child support tracker and more for blended families, single parents and high conflict divorce cases.