Anxious Adjustments

Raise your hand if you sense discomfort in yourself or your children when it’s time to move between houses!  (Ok… you don’t really have to raise your hand. That was just my attempt at an attention-grabbing intro.)

For more than three years, I’ve been there as Drake and Josh travel between their parents.  For more than three years, I’ve sensed the pressure of the transition.  The kids aren’t the only ones affected, I feel it myself too.

Transition = Change.  Therefore, some anxiety is to be expected.  And it manifests itself differently on an individual level.  I typically feel excited before we pick up the boys.  I’m happy to see them and eager to catch up on what they’ve been up to since our last visit.  Moving toward the drop off point, I feel sad, irritable and nervous.

The boys have exhibited stress in many ways: from sullen silence to angry outbursts to upset stomachs.  Boyfriend and I observed that their symptoms are exacerbated by unfamiliar circumstances (a different pickup/drop off point) or tension between their parents (a disagreement the night before).  We try to keep a standard ritual on Friday and Sunday evenings and have found this softens the expression of stress.

For us, the ritual involves a familiar place to eat and sparse conversation for about twenty minutes after/before the exchange.  We keep it quiet so they can adjust as needed.  We’ve gotten pretty skilled at sensing the shift in vibes, so we know when they’re ready to talk about their day, week, math test, etc.  And we don’t start talking until we know they’re both relaxed enough to engage in conversation.

Anticipating the anxiety is key in effectively managing transitional stress.  What methods do you use to soothe the nerves?

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4 comments on “Anxious Adjustments

  1. Sounds like you are doing a fantastic job being sensitive to the boys’ needs. It IS stressful, for kids and grown-ups. I have no idea how The Ex handles it on his end, or if he even notices the effect of the transition on them, but I do. To help, I: (1) Do everything humanly possible to avoid or ignore tension/stress/fighting with The Ex at or right before swap time; (2) Always make sure the kids know ahead of time where and when The Ex is picking them up, where and when they will see or talk to me during the separation, and where and when they’ll be coming back to my house; (3) Back off a bit when they come back home and give them time to check out their rooms, their toys, the dogs, or the TV while they settle in and readjust; (4) When they seem like they’ve sufficiently switched gears, ask them (in a positive way) what they did while at their dad’s, what their favorite part of their stay was, what was something funny that happened, etc.; (5) Always have a sit-down family dinner the last night before they leave me and the first night they come home, so that we can all reconnect and get back in the groove. Can’t think of anything else at the moment. Really good topic.

  2. Mandy says:

    I’ve found that their dad being flexible helps a lot. I’m the primary custody parent so the kids do spend most of their time with me. There are times when their schedules are so hectic or they have a particular event when they don’t want to go to their dad’s as scheduled and fortunately their dad is willing to go with the flow. He could very easy insist they stick to agreed schedule or insist on trading a night but he doesn’t and I’m thankful for that. I think it makes moving between the two houses much less stressful.

    On a more practical note, I know this isn’t always possible but I think when parents can live in close proximity it makes it easier on the children. My ex about a ten minute walk, five minute bike ride, a quick car trip from me. It means if the kids forget something in either place, it isn’t a major event. They can easily visit either of our homes to pick up a DVD, a game or toy that they suddenly need. Another benefit of close proximity means they have the same friends regardless of whether they’re with mom or dad.

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