I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel as if I have “boomerang children”. I send them off to their dad’s for a few days, and they seem very sweet, well-mannered, and then BAM!, disrespect, arguing and blaming me about some minute detail of their life has me shaking my head saying, “Whose children are these?”
Recently my son raised his voice at me when he was in trouble for something he said and did to his sister. He made me so upset that I actually got tears in my eyes and needed to walk away. He was crying, I was upset, I mean it was a mess! When I took a few minutes I realized, “Oh, yeah, tonight is the first night they are back with me…this is one of the transition nights. Later he apologized, and just explained his behavior, but at his age it is hard for him to put all of his feelings into words.
How can we single parents help with this transition?
- Spend some time one Saturday morning creating a “daddy box” or “mommy box”. Help them fill the box with things that remind them of the other parent, maybe some fun photos, game tickets or a gift that parent got for the child. This can help to ease the transition when they can easily open the box and review the items, feeling a sense of closeness.
- Remind the children before they leave of the importance of consistent behavior. No matter what environment they are in, whether its in their mom’s house, dad’s house, school or church, they should have consistently pleasant behavior. Help them to take ownership over their own behavior by teaching them the rewards of obedience.
- Allow for a “cool down” period before the day starts at your house. Once the children arrive back at your house, give them some time to readjust. Imagine you had been working for one boss for several days, and now you need to adapt to working for another boss with a different set of expectations. After a cool down period, remind them of your rules and expectations and their wise decision to remember them as well.
Co-parenting isn’t easy, but one thing we can do is ease the transition for our little ones that didn’t ask for this. Be patient with them while they cry or are upset. Do not take anything seriously. Each child is different and will need to transition differently. Be firm and loving, letting them know that no matter what, you will always love them and be there for them.
Do your children struggle with transitions? What are some strategies you’ve used to help your children?