Ten top tips for a smooth handover.
A common issue for separated parents is how to ensure a smooth handover with the children. This can be a difficult and stressful time for parents because they have to see each other, often when tensions are running high. This stress can be passed on to their children who often pick up on tensions. It can be upsetting for them to say goodbye to one parent as they return to the other.
Handovers also involve children in transitioning from different households with different rules and different ways of doing things. It is very common for a parent to complain that their child takes a long time to readjust from time spent with the other parent. Some parents even use this as an excuse as to why the child shouldn’t visit the other parent or why the other parent is not caring properly for the child.
Try not to worry. Handovers are often stressful and it is normal for children to take some time to adjust from one household to the other. But there are things that you can do to help yourselves and your children.
Here are my ten top tips:
Choose a neutral place for handovers.
Sometimes it works for parents to drop or collect children from each other’s homes. If this works for you, great. But if it causes problems, you may want to think of an alternative. If at all possible, it can be helpful to combine the handover with a school pick up or drop off. So one parent drops the child at school and another collects them. This gives the child to adjust from one parent to another and avoids parents needing to meet each other. If you do this, you will need to be organised about what items children need with them both for school and for their time with the other parent. You will also need to ensure that the school have a copy of your arrangements so they know who is collecting the child and when. Alternatively, you could consider a neutral place like the park or perhaps at grandparents. Ideally you want to choose a happy place for the children to be. Often parents choose to meet in a layby or a car park. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but do think about how your child might be thinking as they sit in the car waiting for the other parent. If you can find somewhere happy for them to be, so much the better.
Don’t use handovers to communicate with your ex about arrangements.
Parents often do this because it is the only time they see the other parent. But resist the temptation. Children want their parents undivided attention at this time, they do not want to wait while you discuss arrangements and they definitely don’t want to witness conflict. So don’t risk it. Arrange for a different way to communicate about arrangements.
Be clear about the arrangements, both with each other and the children.
It is really important that you all know when and where you are meeting, what the child needs to bring with them and so on. Share a calendar of the arrangements with your child so they know what to expect.
Keep good time. Do not be late for handovers.
If it is unavoidable, try to notify the other parent as soon as possible.
Make sure that the child has all that they need.
Ensure the child has all the clothes, school kit, teddies, toys etc. that they need for their time with the other parent. Try to pack them neatly and be sure they are clean.
Don’t bring new partners or other people to handovers.
This is important time for the children to be with their parents. They need your undivided attention. Don’t dilute it and don’t risk conflict with your ex.
Don’t bad mouth your ex before the handover, during it or afterwards.
In fact, never badmouth your ex! It is one of the most damaging things you can do to your children.
Keep your communication polite, respectful and business-like.
If communication is difficult between you, you can keep it minimal. If you can’t then you may wish to consider a handover where you don’t meet each other, or which involves a neutral third party.
Consider a handover ritual.
If your child is struggling to transition from one home to another, consider introducing an activity that you do together every time your child comes back to you. Think about how your child is behaving on their return and choose the activity to reflect their mood. So if they are hyper-active, why not go into the garden and play football for half an hour every time they come home. Or if they are quieter and like to retreat into themselves, perhaps half an hour of quiet colouring together might be better? Whatever you choose, engage with your child, even if that means colouring in silence together and keep the ritual is the same every time.
Smile and be relaxed.
Lead by example and remember that you are doing this to make it as easy as possible for your children.
For more ideas, here is a great blog written by my ‘go to’ parenting after separation expert, Christina McGhee https://divorceandchildren.com/2012/10/helping-kids-transition-between-households-after-divorce/
Mediation can be a helpful to have discussion about handovers in a way that ‘Keeps it about the Kids’. If you think mediation might be helpful to you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07706513496.