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4 Tools to Help a Child Transition Between Parents

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My son cried every day of the first half of preschool. The day he finally didn’t cry, the teacher whispered the news to me at pick up, as though she didn’t want to jinx anything. We emailed about why he was upset and agreed that he could be struggling with separation anxiety due to living at two houses and going to school. It’s a lot for a little kid.

She shared a great tool to help a child transition between parents that I used for the rest of the year. If your kids go back and forth between houses or are just struggling to feel settled and secure for another reason, here’s the visual tool she gave me plus 3 more. They are easy to do and will bring your kids comfort.

These tools help because kids want to know what to expect.

When you’re a kid, you already don’t have much say in what’s going on in the day-to-day. But add to this the fact that a lot of single moms rely on outside help like grandparents or daycare or you have to help your child transition between parents, and it’s easy for them to feel like they are at the mercy of a difficult-to-manage schedule. Just knowing what’s coming next can bring them peace of mind.

Visual Tool #1: A “Whose House?” Chartprintable calendar for kids January 2021

My son’s teacher sent him home with a two by five chart. She even laminated it! I love teachers. It had Monday through Friday in the five boxes across the top and the next row of boxes were blank. She had my son draw pictures of me and his dad. She added velcro to the back so he could track which parent was picking him up each day of the week.

We would look at the chart before bed and say, “Tomorrow is Wednesday. I’m taking you to school, and daddy is picking you up,” and then he’d put the drawing of his dad in the box below Wednesday. A clear schedule on display is a great way to help a small child deal with anxiety and tension. Yours doesn’t have to look just like mine. Use iMOM’s free printable calendars to get started.

Visual Tool #2: A Shared Online Calendar

The glitter and sticker-covered calendar on the fridge might be great for the little ones, but once your kids get to be a little older and tech-savvy, invite them to a shared calendar. It’s easy if your child has a phone because there are plenty of apps you can use. But you can also create a Google email account with parental supervision that they can access on the computer. Then just share a Google calendar. You can use it to help your child transition between parents, keep track of test schedules, and mark special events.

Visual Tool #3: A Dinner Menuhealthy meal planning

I started doing this for my own sanity and grocery budget, but I noticed how much my sons enjoy getting a preview of the meals for the week. We got a dry erase board and I write what we’re having for dinner each night. It’s such a minor detail and you wouldn’t think it would make much of a difference, but in a world where they don’t always know what’s going on, having this tiny bit of information can be just the thing they need to feel secure.

And while we’re talking food, why not give the kids some control by allowing them to pack their own lunches? iMOM’s Healthy Meal Planner will ensure they don’t just pack a bag of cookies.

Visual Tool #4: A Countdown Jar

You can use this for just about anything—a countdown ’til vacation, a birthday, days of the school year. But it’s particularly helpful if your child gets sad thinking about the next time he’ll go to Dad’s. I know that when my sons were little and I told them, “Well, today is Friday and you’ll see Daddy again after school on Wednesday,” I could see their eyes just gloss over.

So get a jar and something to count with—marbles, hair bands, LEGO pieces. If you’re five days away from going to Dad’s, put five LEGOs in the jar. Take one out each day. It’s a great way to help your kids feel more at ease so they can work on just being kids!

What do you do to help your child transition between parents or feel more relaxed at home?


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