Making Joint Custody Work
Most of us have some kind of shared, joint custody. It’s hard to get around the fact that shuttling the kids back and forth is a hassle. But this is the new reality for the whole family, and there are some things that can make it a little easier and less taxing for the kids.
It is helpful if you and your Ex share a Google or other calendar so you both have all the important information about the kids. If your kids are old enough to have mobile phones, they can also have access to this and know the parenting schedule. Then your child can simply look up what dates they are with mom or with dad. Other dates can go in the calendar too: parent-teacher conferences, mom’s business trip, dentist appointments, soccer games, etc. This cuts down on confusion and helps with the communication overall for everyone. If kids are younger, then a printed out calendar on the refrigerator at each house works well.
In most cases it’s not really possible to have two sets of everything, and it gets expensive. But some things are important to have in duplicate because it’s easier – and would cause a big hassle if forgotten. Toiletries, underwear & socks, PJ’s, staple type clothing items (school uniforms, jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts). If there are particular toys or favorite books, it’s helpful to have a set in each house.
For the items that do move between houses, get a large tote bag or rolling suitcase. On switch day, they can load up the items for the week. Think of the clothes they’ll need for school and activities, gear, school books and supplies, favorite stuffed animals and other toys, and anything that they want to share with their other parent. You can make a checklist so you and the kids don’t forget anything. There’s nothing like having to run a forgotten book report across town at 10pm to make you create a list and check it twice.
Set up the drop off / pick up of kids and stuff in a fair and equal manner. Usually, the parent who has the kids bring them and their stuff to the other parent for their time. Other couples opt to meet halfway, but this can cause challenges if one or both of you is late.
A checklist can also come in handy here to make sure that everything is packed and ready to go. Leaving a favorite teddy bear behind can make for a very difficult ride home (and back to retrieve it). Sticking to the schedule and time is not only respectful of each other, it’s also very important for the kids. It gives them a routine to rely on and minimizes hassles, fights, and stress.
Yes, the kids do need to be responsible for their own stuff, but it’s also important to cut them some slack. They didn’t ask for this, and it’s difficult for them. Make it your responsibility to ensure they have what they need. Inevitably something important gets left at the other parent’s house. Work with your Ex to figure this out and retrieve the item, without placing blame on your child.