After a divorce, parties are often happy to go their separate ways. However, parents who share custody may not go very far: Continuing to raise a child together means that exes will be in each other’s lives for the foreseeable future. Any interactions have the potential to be contentious though.
For instance, custody exchanges could prove to be combative and stressful. If you are struggling with high-conflict custody exchanges, there are some ways you can make them a little easier.
Keep it short and safe
There is no need to draw out exchanges. Not only can it be difficult for the parents, but it can also be painful for a child. Give your child time to say goodbye, but try to keep it brief.
You could also refrain from directly interacting with each other during exchanges if the situation allows. Such options could include staying in your car instead of going up to the other parent’s door, or scheduling exchanges to coincide with school drop-offs or pickups.
Focus on your child’s experience
As upsetting as custody exchanges can be for parents, they are especially distressing for a child who is still adjusting to dividing time with parents in the first place. Remember this and focus on your child’s safety and well-being during the custody exchange. Do your best to be respectful.
Further, showing respect for the other parent and “being the bigger person” can send a positive message to your child in terms of how to act in times of conflict.
If you wind up fighting every time you talk about parenting matters, do not discuss them at exchanges. Save these conversations for a time and place where your child is not around and consider putting such discussions in writing.
And if there are people or places that are painful or uncomfortable for one of you, steer clear of them during exchanges. For instance, don’t bring a new partner along just to hurt your ex. And if he or she still lives in the house you once shared, you can decide not to go inside.
While you cannot control the other parent’s actions, you can manage your role in difficult custody situations. Taking these steps can make sharing custody a little easier on you and your child.