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How to Master Kid Exchanges With Your Co-parent

Things may not be 100% with your co-parent and you may have a thousand distractions. The result can be that your kid exchanges can be awkward, at best.
(2 min 33 sec read)

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

How many times have you picked up the kid and got all the way home only to realize you forgot their soccer uniform? When you are divorced, dropping off or picking up the kids become a new normal and eventually becomes part of the ebb and flow of your life and your child’s life.

We understand things may not be 100% with your co-parent and you may have a thousand distractions. The result can be that your kid exchanges can be awkward, at best. To understand it better let’s touch on some signals you may be getting from your children leading into an exchange;

  • Child is quiet, withdrawn
  • Child acts nervous or fearful
  • Child has physical complaints: stomachache, headache, or nausea, etc.
  • Child is aggressive (yelling, punching, etc)
  • Child is acting like a younger child (regression in skills indicates discomfort)

Understanding these symptoms are pretty vague and may be triggered from any number of situations, tune-in to whether they happen around the exchanges, take a moment prior to the exchange set the right tone, keep the focus on the kids and create the right mood for all.

How to Tune-up Your Kid Exchanges

  1. Remain Flexible – the other co-parent may be late for pick-ups; traffic snags, business meetings may run over, things happen. Give them the benefit of the doubt and remain flexible and adjust as needed, you may find yourself late at some point, too.
  2. Plan Ahead – have a pre-meeting talk with your co-parent to coordinate for a smooth exchange. Discuss what events, sports or activities they need to be packed for. Some families create a simple checklist to keep everyone in the loop, this will help forgotten baseball gloves and hats.
  3. Have the Kids Ready – when the kids are going to your co-parent’s, make sure they are ready. Make sure they’re not hungry. Make sure they are good to go.
  4. Have the Right Attitude – Keep yourself in check. Keep it positive. Kid exchanges are not the time to argue (any issue), badmouthing (*never in front of the children), hassle them. Focus on the kid, raise up the other co-parent. You are allowed to have your feelings about what kind of spouse your co-parent was -or- was not, but in the face of your child find something good to say about your co-parent.
  5. Get there early – This gives a needed moment of pause with your thoughts and with your kids. It sends the message that this exchange matters to you, that you anticipate it and having it go smoothly matters.

We realize there are many opportunities for friction around and during kid exchanges. If something is not working and you need a tune-up, look at it from a holistic point of view. Ask yourself what you could do differently. Are you in a parallel parenting scenario or even a high conflict situation? Perhaps finding a neutral location helps, perhaps you pick up at your child’s friend’s house after school or a relative’s house. The focus is on a smooth transition, minus the drama that sets your child up for a positive experience.

We understand kid exchanges can be a point of tension with co-parents so if you need help, download the coParenter app and use our Check-In feature!

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