How can you improve parenting time exchanges?

After a divorce or separation there will be many adjustments for you, your former partner and your children. Of these adjustments, parenting time exchanges is probably one of the most important, yet overlooked activities that parents and children must adapt to. Children learn by watching and listening to their parents, so how parents behave and interact with each other can have a lasting impact on the children.

Here are some tips to keep these custody exchanges running smoothly:

  • Keep the schedule visible - Make sure that both parents and children know what the schedule is. If everyone involved knows what going on you can avoid issues caused by uncertainty like missed appointments. For the kids, simply knowing when your at mom's house and when your at dad's can help a child remain grounded during these uncertain times.
  • Encourage the kids to spend time with both parents - Let your kids know that it is good for them to spend time with both parents. Anything that you can do to help them foster a relationship with the other parent will only help your child in the end. Communicate regularly so that any changes to the visitation schedule are known and agreed to by both parents. Working with the other parent will work to your advantage, there will be times when you too may need to make changes to the normal parenting schedule.
  • Plan ahead - If you do need to make adjustments to the normal parenting plan, make them known as early as possible. The sooner you can get things resolved the easier it will be for everyone. With time and deadlines, comes pressure and stress, so make it easier on yourself by being proactive with plan changes.
  • Take responsibility - Don't send your parent, new spouse or new love interest to pick up the kids or spend extended periods of time with them. This will often make the other parent even more uncomfortable than normal. Also, it removes the consistency that children thrive on. Your parenting time is time for you to spend with the kids, so do not to send a surrogate.
  • Communicate directly - Don't use your children as messengers. Don't ask them to "just tell mom" or "mention to dad" anything. If you need to send something to other parent, send it by mail or give it to them yourself. You don't want your children being associated with any negative fallout from bringing a new bill or note from a school teacher. Additionally, you most likely don't want your kids reading this information that was meant for the other parent. If you want to know information about the other parent, ask the other parent, don't ask your children. In other words, don't use your children as spies.

The ideas on this list may seem like common sense to most. But, it can be very difficult to employ the best practices, especially if the relationship between parents is strained. Using an online tool like the Our Family Wizard website can help make communication much more clear and accessible. The site will provide you with easy to use tools that can help keep everyone on the same page. Click here to learn more about how the Our Family Wizard website can help your family.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.