Coparents can create detailed parenting plans with scheduled visits, childcare needs, and even how to handle pick-ups and drop-offs. While parents may have consulted the kids about their needs and wants, the transitions between homes will not always go as planned, and kids may not like the parenting plan arrangement. This will be particularly true in the early days of the post-divorce era. The coparents will need to take action or discuss a strategy for resolving the children’s resistance.
Making the transitions easier
Whether the switch is daily, every few days, on weekends or on another schedule, it is essential to remember that reunion with one parent means separation from the other.
When the child leaves: Make sure to remind the child a day or two ahead of time. Deliver them on time if possible and stay positive about the switch. It also helps to have the child pack ahead of time, which better ensures that they don’t forget a precious item. Encourage them to bring a photo or favorite toy. It is also better for parents to drop them off – this avoids the perception that the other parent came to take them away.
When the child returns: The first hours can be rocky, and parents will need to help the child adjust. Parents should try to carve out time together after arrival so that they can settle and reconnect. Conversely, the child may need space during the transition to adjust. Try to establish the stability of a special routine for when they return, so the child knows what to expect each time they arrive.
What if they refuse to switch?
There is a natural tendency to favor one home over the other, and it is common for children to refuse to switch. This situation is hard on the entire family and likely forces parents to juggle their schedules. Parents may need to do some detective work to get to the bottom of the refusal. This will involve parenting problem-solving skills:
Figure out the cause: The parent may need to align their house rules and parenting styles (discipline, screen time, number of toys, other entertainment). A conflict, dispute or misunderstanding may taint the child’s perception and cause the child to react. Parents should try to talk to the child to get to the bottom of it.
Go with it: Try to go with the flow regardless of whether the reason for the refusal is apparent. It may not have anything to do with the shunned parent. These situations tend to pass, particularly with a younger child.
Talk to your coparent: Both parents will likely need to be involved in solving the issue. Be sensitive and understanding about their thoughts and feelings rather than accusing them of bad parenting or attempting to sabotage your relationship.
Change in plan
Parenting plans naturally change over time as the needs of the child change. Nevertheless, it may become apparent that a course correction is needed to better accommodate the child’s needs. If the change has long-term implications, it may be necessary to modify the parenting plan to formalize the change legally.