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Children moving between two households

If you have children who are living between two households, there are things for you to consider to help make the transition smoother. For instance, understanding their temperament and how they deal with change impacts how you as a parent should react and respond during transition times. Which of these three types fits your children’s personalities?

  • Is your child an easy child, one who responds well to change?
  • Is your child one who resists change and lets you know it?
  • Is your child slow to warm up, one who needs more time to get used to new situations?

Your children may show anxiety before going to the other parent's home. Realize their anxiety is probably due to a new routine. Keeping your children's temperament in mind, look at these tips for helping your children transition to the new routine:

  • Help them pack. Let them decide on a few familiar things that will make them feel comfortable in either home.
  • Explain how long they will be with the other parent.
  • Reassure your children. Let them know that both parents love them.
  • Tell them you will never leave them.
  • Talk positively about the time they’ll spend with the other parent. This will help them see the importance of being with both parents and know it's okay to go.
  • Pick up your children during a natural transition time in their day. Before or after an activity is a time they are used to switching gears.
  • Pick up your children without starting an argument with the other parent. If you can't, find a place such as a school or daycare where you won’t have to interact with the other parent.
  • Use a calendar. It helps show when they are in different households.
  • Don't make your children messengers.
  • When you ask about their time in the other home, don't try to get information about the other parent.

Even though you may have negative feelings about your child’s other parent, keep the focus on your children. For example, when asking about time spent with the other parent, concentrate on them. Save your feelings for times when you can appropriately share them such as with a therapist, trusted friend or family member, or through private journaling. 


Ellie M. McCann, Extension educators in family resiliency

Reviewed in 2023

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