The Dos and Don’ts of Access Exchanges
The pick-up and drop-off process can be a difficult time for children. It is important that parents make this as smooth as possible for a child so that the child feels at ease, rather than guilty, hurt, and distressed.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you work on access exchanges.
What to Do
- Keep transitions calm and neutral. Exchange pleasantries with the other parent, if possible. If this is not possible, then make the exchange quick and efficient. Keep your child comfortable and not feeling like they are the cause of any argument. Children are perceptive and pick up on their parents’ moods and feelings.
- Have everything ready for the exchange. If the child brought items to your home of which there are only one, or if the child brought something to your home that is needed for the school week, make sure these are packed and ready to go. Forgetting these items can cause strain or unnecessary conflict between parents and also lead to a parent airing their frustrations out in front of the child.
- Have the child clean and fed. This comes up frequently as a parenting concern, so it is important that parents are mindful of this. Returning a child to the other parent hungry or dirty adds to the other parents’ responsibilities. Repeatedly doing this can lead the other parent wanting to revisit parenting terms or access time itself.
- Follow the access schedule, but be flexible. Circumstances at work, in our personal lives, or with activities can prompt a need to change pick-up or drop off, so it’s important to be reasonable and accommodating. If you foresee running late for pick-up or drop-off, let the other parent know as far in advance as possible. If something will impede on your scheduled time, tell the other parent so that they are aware and so that the child can also be told in an appropriate way. This also allows alternate arrangements to be made in a more stress-free manner compared to making them one hour before the scheduled pick-up or drop-off.
What Not to Do
- Do not arrive at your pick-ups or drop-offs late. This can leave your child feeling a range of emotions. It can also result in making the other parent anxious or upset and can then lead to an unpleasant exchange for which the child is present. A call or a text is important, and should not be one that comes after the pick-up time.
- Do not use exchanges as a time to vent to your child about the other parent. It is important to be respectful of the other parent. Think about how you would want the other parent to speak about you to your child.
- Do not make your child the messenger. Doing this pulls them into conflict and exposes them to adult issues. Communicate with the other parent about updates or concerns regarding parenting politely in person, if possible. If not, use emails or texts, or a logbook.
- Do not miss access time with your children. If you have a schedule, follow it. The impact of not seeing or spending time with your child can have a negative impact on them. It can also cause issues with the parent, who may have planned to use the time you are meant to be with the child to run errands or go to work.
Ensuring transitions run as smoothly as possible will help reduce the stress on you and your children and make pick-ups and drop-offs more of a routine than a conflict.