What if your kid doesn't want to go with the other parent?
One of the hardest things to do as a divorced parent is to encourage your kids to go with your ex when they don’t want to. However, consistency is key to making those transitions easier over time. When my ex and I first separated, my youngest was a toddler. We all know how toddlers act when they're not happy. He would throw a tantrum every time he had to transition between our homes. It used to break my heart the way that he would cry and fuss.
5 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Go With the Other Parent When They Don't Want To
As long as the kids aren’t avoiding going due to neglect or abuse, it's your job to encourage them to. Some children don’t do well with change, so the transition between households can be especially difficult. Keep in mind that it doesn't have anything to do with the other parent. You'll be doing your children a favor if you work to make transitioning as smooth as possible.
Use the following tips to encourage your children when it comes to transitions between two homes.
1. Hide your own anxiety
One way to make the transition between homes as smooth as possible is not to allow your kids to see your own anxiety over them leaving. If your children feel that you aren’t okay with them going to see their other parent, then they aren’t going to be happy about it either. Let them know that you'll miss them while they're away, but you're glad that they're going to be able to spend time with their other parent. If you know about things planned for that time take the time to remind them so they have something great to look forward to.
2. Keep your plans to yourself
You may want to keep your own plans to yourself about what you'll be doing while the children are gone. If they feel like you might be participating in something fun without them, they may not want to go with their other parent. If they ask you what you'll be doing, simply let them know the basic things such as cleaning, working, reading a book, the types of things that they see you doing all the time.
3. Allow your kids to take comfort items
Let your child take items to the other parent’s home that are familiar. This can be pictures, games, a blanket, or even a favorite stuffed animal to cuddle with at night. When they have familiar things with them, they won't feel like they are as far away from the place they primarily call home.
4. Make a family calendar
If you have set days where you and your ex-spouse trade-off the children, let the kids know when those days will be. You might do so by having a calendar that the kids can use. They can mark the days on the calendar that they will be with each parent and will be less confused when it's time to go to the other home, especially if the parents share parenting responsibilities.
Of course, this method might not work for all children. If your child deals with a significant amount of anxiety around transitions, you may prefer to keep those dates to yourself until the day of or even the night before.
5. Prepare kids for transitions
Help your child prepare ahead for being with the other parent. You can give them gentle reminders ahead of time, including telling them tomorrow they will be going with their mom or their dad. You might also choose to let them know a couple of hours before the transition will take place. If your child is transitioning from school to the other parent's home, you'll want to make sure they have a plan for that in place as well.
Try to have a mutual agreement with your ex that the kids can call either parent when they want to. This way you can remind them they can give you a call later to tell you how they're doing. For many kids, just knowing they have that option can make the transition much easier.
It can be difficult at times to put on the smile and encourage your children to go with the other parent. Still, it's something you need to do for them to be happy with the transition. Some children only have such anxiety when they are going from one parent to the other. Others experience it with both exchanges as it is the change that bothers them.
If you maintain a consistent routine, the kids will get used to it (and so will you). While divorce isn’t going to be an easy change for your kids, they are going to need the love and support of both parents to get them through it. Don’t fail to realize how important it is for a child to have a strong relationship with both parents. Also, keep in mind how your own reaction to them leaving is going to affect them.
Transitions over Time
As time goes by, you will have fewer issues with the transitions. They may still come up now and then, but they won’t be an all the time thing anymore. It's now been years since my son cried when transitioning between homes. We have a regular routine and we all know what to expect. I'm glad those days are behind us, but I'm also happy we persevered so that our kids have a good relationship with both my ex and me.
Related post: Helping Kids Through Divorce
For more information about helping kids through a divorce, download our e-book, Parenting Through Divorce.
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