Handing your children over to your ex can be deeply painful, particularly
if you had a contentious divorce or don't trust your former spouse.
It's no wonder, then, that so many parents end up fighting during
custody exchanges. If it's this stressful for you, imagine how it
feels for your child, who has no control over what you or your ex do,
and who may not understand what's happening.
Your family deserves better than endless conflict. Here are five ways to
make child custody exchanges less stressful.
Choose a Neutral Location
Your family home can trigger all sorts of emotions, particularly if you
and your ex once lived there together. If you often fight during custody
exchanges, take the emotional sting out of the exchange by meeting at
a neutral location—a local restaurant or store, or perhaps even
a custodial exchange center. If there is any history of violence or emotional
abuse, a neutral location can help defuse tensions and keep everyone safe.
Establish a Routine
You already know that a bedtime routine helps your child fall asleep. A
custody exchange routine helps ease the transition and allay your child's
fears. Establish a pre-exchange routine and repeat it each time. You might
eat a meal together, sing a special song, or go for a walk. It doesn't
matter what you do; it matters that it feels loving and that you do it
each and every time.
Don't Discuss Substantive Matters
It might be convenient to discuss child support disputes or parenting disagreements
during custody exchanges, but it's not healthy. Discussing anything
more than superficial pleasantries can trigger a fight. Your children
deserve better. Reserve potentially problematic discussions for email,
phone calls, or a time when your children aren't present.
Keep Romantic Partners Out of It
You might be tempted to ask your new partner to join you for support. It's
more important to provide a conflict-free environment for your child.
New romantic partners can trigger intense emotions in both parties. Keep
the exchange family-only, no matter how much you love your new partner.
Even if you've remarried, there's no reason for your spouse to
be present at a custody exchange.
Put Your Child First
Divorce is extremely painful. The temptation to lash out at your ex may
be overwhelming. Don't do it. Your child is watching, and the way
you behave can have more far-reaching consequences than you might imagine.
Put your child first by doing whatever is necessary to control your own
emotions. The temporary satisfaction of hurting your ex is not worth the
long-term pain your child may suffer as a result.