In this article, we’ll recommend different ways to improve parenting time exchanges. Depending on your situation, tension can be high after a divorce or separation, and it’s important to stay calm and rational in order to ensure your child’s safety and happiness.
- Choose a neutral meeting place. In hostile relationships, a public meeting place may be your best option to avoid an argument or altercation. Ideally, this would not be a permanent solution, but a temporary place until you and your child’s parent are both comfortable exchanging your child with minimal discomfort. Whatever meeting place you choose, make sure it is convenient for both parents and appropriate for your child.
- Try your best to be on time. Lateness is the most common reason for unnecessary tension when it comes to parenting time exchanges. Not only are you taking away from your child’s relationship with his or her parent, but also showing disrespect for his or her time. Whether or not this is your intention, always be on time, and if you are running late, be courteous and give notice.
- Create a visual, tangible schedule. This will eliminate any miscommunications or uncertainties, which often lead to conflict. If you need to alter the schedule in any way, communicate these changes as early as possible to give the other parent ample time to adjust.
- Give your child a safe space to express emotions about the other parent, good or bad. Exchanges can be difficult for children, because they often feel like they need to choose a “side” or display complete neutrality between both parents. Encourage your child to share his or her experiences and events with you, without pumping him or her for information or making negative comments.
- Never use your child as a messenger. Don’t ask your child to “mention” something to the other parent. You don’t want your child to be associated with any negative fallout from forgetting to bring a note home from a teacher or missing a practice.
- Take responsibility for pick-ups and drop-offs. Try not to send a significant other, parent, or sibling to pick up or drop off your child. This can make the other parent feel more uncomfortable than normal, and you want your child to feel like he or she can depend on you.
- Openly communicate with your child’s parent. While your child’s parent may not be your favorite person, it’s critical that you have an open communication channel with each other to make sure your child is safe and happy. In high-tension relationships, it may be best to keep in-person conversation to a minimum and use text or email for detailed recaps. For younger children, parents often use a notebook to track meals, changings, and other need-to-know details.