Over the past decade, I’ve had many opportunities to practice my transition muscle. In this blog I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned along the way, so that you don’t have to waste time finding this stuff out on your own. It’s with honor that I share with you my top 3 tips for parents on how to have smoother transitions.
It was never my intention to become a part-time dad. That is not what I’d dream of when growing up and imagining my future family. Probably none of current the part-time parents went into this adventure wanting a broken home, because they will all agree that it is devastating. Those days that the child(ren) goes back to their other parent – that we don’t like as much as we once did anymore – remain dreaded throughout the next coming years.
So, what do you do when you’re faced with this reality in your own home? How do you handle watching your children leave for their other parents house? Many struggle with knowing how to live their lives when their children are away. There are some common mistakes that many parents make that make this process even harder on themselves – and perhaps even the children too.
If that’s you, you can surrender your guilt and fear right here. Often, there are mental shifts or simple things you can do to turn the tide in your favor. We are here to share with you our 3 Top Tips in how to make saying goodbye to your children a little less painful and how to grow in the process of missing them.
Tip #1 – Stop making it a bigger deal
In the first of 3 tips for parents on how to have smoother transitions, I can imagine that most divorced parents can relate to this situation: before you know it, transition day is still two days out, and yet, you find yourself waking up with a heavy heart. All you can think about is how you will have to say goodbye to your child(ren) in 48 hours.
For the next two days, as our children are with us, every passing minute we can feel the parting come closer. We feel ourselves slipping away into sadness. And even though these feelings are valid, does that mean that we have to give into them? The days are now spent in an overall mood of grievance and transition day becomes dreadful to our child(ren) as well. Before you know it, your child(ren) constantly live in sadness. Yet another disadvantage our children have over kids who never have to change homes.
I’ll be the first to admit that transition day IS an emotional day. I sure ain’t telling you to ignore your emotions either, nor am I saying that what you feel is a mistake. However, I’d encourage you to look at transition from a different perspective.
Somewhere in this downward spiral sinking further into doom, it became clear to me that when WE make a big deal out of something, so do our child(ren). So then, when we would make a small deal out of it, so would our children. And when we treat something as ‘normal’, it becomes ‘normal’ to them, too.
And whether we want it to be or not, it IS going to be both their and our normal for the next several years to change home every week. So the sooner WE make this something ‘light & normal’, so will they and we can get this doom & gloom out of all our lives.
But then, how do we do this? Because my heart still is being torn apart when they leave.
Tip #2 – Don’t focus on the loss
The time we get to spend with our child(ren) is always so valuable. And it’s also always too short. When they come over, they need a day to re-adjust. Before we know it, we’re back at counting down the hours before they have to go away again.
So, we hug them one more time. Okay, maybe ten or twenty more times. We tell them how much we love them and miss them every minute of every day that they’re not with us. If only they’d know how a week could feel like a month.
This may be all well and true, but how are we then burdening our kids? When the moment of transition arrives, now our children have to leave us with a weary heart, worrying about us and wondering how we are. Would you really want your child(ren) to spend their first two nights crying for you? Where I could understand that this might boost your ego, I also believe that this is not true love. If you’d truly love your children, you wouldn’t want them to cry at all. You’d want them to go with a big smile!
But they don’t, and neither do you.
Why is that? Not only are we setting our child(ren) up for failure, we’re also setting their other parent up for failure. Despite our own opinion about them, they still are our kid(s)’s parent and our children love them just as they love us. And they should.
And on top of that, we’re also setting ourselves up for failure. For the last 72 hours we’ve been dreading this moment, and now that they are gone, what are we to do? What is left of us? Our heart just walked out the front door and we feel worthless. All we want to do, is hug them one more time. Should we call them and let them know that we love them? How many times have you given into that?
The sun just left us and all that awaits is a looooooooooong time of doom and gloom.
What good could ever come out of this? Because in the meanwhile, our lives are passing by. This is it, folks. This is the ride that we are on, and every minute that’s passed by, we could never re-live again.
Yes, we know this is hard. Of course, we’d rather have our sweet little angel by our side all the time. But we also have to accept the fact that for now, this is not the case. This week will go by one way or another. So, how about we focus on hugging the kids when they’re with us, and missing them when they’re not.
As crazy as it may sound, the more fun we have, the faster the week will go by;
at the same time: the worse we feel, the more this week will keep dragging on. And in the end, just like we can be sure that our child(ren) have to go away, we can also be absolutely sure that they will be coming back to us again, too. Our advice would be to focus on the day that they’re transitioning back to you.
In the meanwhile, we gain more opportunities to do the things we couldn’t or didn’t make time for when our kids were with us.
The second of 3 tips for parents on how to have smoother transitions would be to not let yourself fall into the neverending pitt of loss.
Tip #3 – Make time for self-care
“When we do not control our feelings, our feelings will control us” to me is one of those lines that changed my life. In the exact same way, discovering these 3 tips for parents on how to have smoother transitions did too. Here’s the third one.
I’ve been there many hundreds of times before; dropping off my princess at her mom’s was the hardest thing in the world to do. It would make me want to get a bottle of liquor and drown my sorrow. And to be completely honest, there were occasions that I gave into that feeling. Only to wake up feeling worse.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. What if there was a way to channel that negative energy into something positive? We would be turning that darkness into gold, like alchemists.
There was a time that I used to go swimming after I’d dropped off my baby girl. I’d prep my swimming gear and not allow for an instant of doubt to seep in. Nope, just dive in the water and work it all out. One advantage of being in the water, is that I could scream and yell as much and as loud as I want; no one will hear it under water. After an hour, I’d feel exhausted having had a great workout. And that negativity was gone.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s swimming or running, weight lifting or boxing, or maybe some yoga: do what you like to do and move that body. This way that heavy energy can work it’s way through you and out of your body. Now, you’re no longer holding onto it. You’re ready to release it and move on, in a healthy manner. Hard as it may sound, try doing something that will make you feel better by the time the next transition day comes around and the kids are coming to you.
You’ve cleaned the house, prepped meals, feel well-rested and are ready for a week of being on your A game, because that’s what your children need and deserve.
And not only them, but you too.
Bonus Tip: Protect Your Energy From Your Ex
There’s one thing around transition day that we haven’t mentioned in this blog. That is, until I had to write the title of this bonus section. Yes, you guessed it correctly: it has to do with your ex.
Maybe we’re glad that we don’t have to face them on a daily basis no more. Yet, the fact remains that we do have to face them from time to time. Maybe even on a weekly basis. And to some, this could be another reason to get anxious around transition days.
It’s no surprise that it might be hard to deal with someone who triggers negative emotions from our past. The hurt, the pain, the disappointment, could all come to life again when we just think of them.
If you feel that the above paragraph is an understatement, than this tip may be one for you.
How can we minimize dealing with them in person? When we drop of our child(ren), do we have to go and talk to them? Or when they come pick up our child(ren), do they have to come in? I’d say “no” to both questions.
Can we communicate through email? Maybe we can send a mail the night before transition day, so that we don’t have to deal with it on the day itself. What information do they need to know in order to take care of the child(ren)? All the rest is obsolete.
It would be nice to have a friendly exchange. If it’s causing you to spend half a week in pain just thinking about this moment, than I’d encourage you to reconsider the way you’re doing things.
Doing so would not make you a bad parent. Whatever anyone else may say: this does not make you any less of a person. Quite on the contrary; this way you’re standing up for yourself, affirmed in your own power. This way you’re reclaiming yourself. This in and of itself may well be the greatest gift you’ve given your child(ren). Sometimes a small tweak in the way we go about things can be a gamechanger for the way we live our lives.
And just like that, I’ve shared with you my top 3 tips for parents on how to have smoother transitions. Try it, apply it, and let me know how it’s working out for you.
Always here to help you,
here’s to your and your child(ren)’s success.