Picking up or dropping off your child for custody exchanges can be incredibly difficult after you and their other parent split up. While this will get easier with time, there are some things you can do in the short term to make exchanges less upsetting for you and your child.
Preparation is key in making exchanges go smoothly. Whether picking up your child or dropping them off, get everything set ahead of time. Keep a checklist handy to remind you to do things like:
- Gather all your child’s schoolwork
- Bring comfort items your child needs
- Pack up overnight necessities
- Make sure you know when and where the exchange is happening
- Charge phones or tablets
When you have all these things ready, you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Further, if you know these situations can be painful, plan to do something afterward to help you (and your child) recover. This might include spending time with friends, going to the park or stopping for ice cream or coffee.
Your ex likely knows how to push your buttons to get a rise out of you, but you can make a commitment to yourself that you will not invest your time or energy into toxic exchanges.
To accomplish this:
- Don’t discuss your relationship or your split at the exchange.
- If you must change pickup times or places, do so in writing and as far in advance as possible.
- Practice strategies to calm down when angry or upset, so you don’t lash out at anyone.
You should also keep track of instances when your ex is late, doesn’t show up or instigates arguments around your child. This information can be crucial when reviewing parenting plans.
Keep your distance
In some cases, completely refraining from interacting with your ex can be best. You might decide to:
- Stay in your cars
- Stay out of each others’ homes
- Schedule exchanges around school or daycare pickups and dropoffs so you don’t cross paths
- Meet at a public, neutral location
Because exchanges may be the only time you are around each other, finding ways to keep your distance can be crucial if emotions run high.
Again, exchanges will get easier with time. However, these suggestions can help you make them easier right now.