Jennifer Safian of www.safian-mediation.com explains how mediation can help you build a parenting plan of your choice. Choosing mediation over an adversarial legal process will help you build a parenting plan of your choice. Together, you and your spouse can put in place the parameters and many details that you think will work best for you and for your children. The mere fact that you are cooperating in building this plan sets an example of communication for your children and will translate into a positive outcome for everyone. When children are confident of the love of both parents, they adjust more quickly and easily to divorce.

Here are a few things to keep in mind beyond the schedule itself:

Transitions from one house to another

The actual going back and forth from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or just on weekends, can be hard on the children. Every reunion with one parent is also a separation from the other; each “hello” is also a “goodbye.” In joint custody arrangements, transition time is inevitable, but there are many things that you can do to help ease the transitions, both when your children leave and when they return. Some parents choose to drop off rather than pick up the children on the “switch day” as sometimes the pick up can interrupt the children in their activities and may upset them. This may not always be possible or convenient for the parents’ schedules, so try to plan ahead.

When your child leaves

As kids prepare to leave one house for the other, try to stay positive and have them ready on time. You may use some of the following ideas to ease those transitions:

    • Help children anticipate the change: Remind them a day or two before the visit that they will be leaving for the other parent’s house.
    • Pack in advance: Depending on their age, help children pack their bags well before they leave so that they don’t forget anything that is important to them. Encourage them to pack a favorite toy, stuffed animal or some other special item that they may want to have with them.
    • Double up: To make packing simpler and make kids feel more comfortable when they are at the other parent’s house, have certain basics—toothbrush, hairbrush, pajamas, spare clothes—at both houses.

When your child returns

Especially in the beginning of the routine between the two homes, your child’s return can be awkward or even rocky. Try to allow the children some “space.” Children often need a little time to adjust to the transition. They probably don’t want to answer questions about what happened at the other house, so don’t quiz them. Let them speak up if they choose to do so. If they do seem to need some space, do something else nearby. In time, things will get back to normal.

Dealing with visitation refusal

Sometimes children refuse to leave one parent to be with the other. These transitions for children can be hard so refusal is quite common. Try and gently find the cause. The problem may be one that is easy to resolve, requiring a slight change in discipline style, or having more toys or clothes that they are attached to. It may be an emotional reason such as conflict or a misunderstanding. It may be that they were in the middle of their favorite television show when they had to get up and leave for the other house! Go with the flow. Whether you have detected the reason for the refusal or not, try to give your children the space and time that they obviously need.

A heart-to-heart talk with the other parent about the refusal may be challenging and emotional, but can help you figure out what the problem is. Try to be sensitive and understanding as you discuss this touchy subject. In the end, especially when your children are younger, the parents are the ones that ultimately make the decisions and it’s better for the children that you have regular interaction between the two of you so that you can work together on all these issues.

Do you have any good tips that you have used and would like to share with other parents? Please feel free to share them in the “leave a comment” box below! Thank you.

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Jennifer Safian

jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny
(212) 472-8626
info@safianmediation.com
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