Helping Children Transition in Joint Custody
Change is never easy, and change in a child’s home life can be especially disruptive. As coParents and servants to children’s well-being during the transition to joint custody (whether physical or legal), it is especially important to make sure that adjustments to kids’ lives are well-planned and thoughtful. The child who fails to launch during joint custody likely needs both a push and a pull. In many cases, one won’t work without the other.
The push comes from behind in the form of the parent’s assurance that it’s okay to be apart. Particularly, the parent must affirm that he or she will be fine when the child is with the coParent. However, these must be shared with sincerity. Offering reassurance disingenuously will only make matters worse. Children are much more attuned to parents’ emotions than parents realize.
The pull must come from the child’s next anchor—with coParent. During joint custody, how can you make your child feel safe and welcomed, as they travel between homes? When crossing the path of something new, provide a structured method by providing someone or someplace safe, familiar, and welcoming to help your child navigate that path better. The safer and more familiar, the more effective the pull.
Transitional objects help along the way. These are things that make the absent parent’s security mobile and present for the child. It also keeps the absent child’s security top of mind for the parent, such as having similar objects or toys at both homes, where the child stays and sleeps.