How does your stepdaughter deal with switching back and forth between houses during the week? I get asked this question so often when chatting with others about my family’s blended dynamic. Although the ideal custodial arrangement between two separate parents is always 50/50, more often than not it doesn’t happen. Distance interferes, work schedules conflict, and so many factors can stand between each parent getting to spend 50 percent of the time with their child.
Quite often one parent ends up being the everyday parent and the other one the “weekend” parent. For those blended families that go halfsies, the win is in splitting the time equally. Hooray!
However, the biggest challenge can come in the form of creating seamless weekday transitions to maintain a happy, healthy, harmonic environment for your kiddo. Here are a few little tips and strategies I’ve learned that you can implement for creating harmony between your child’s two homes so that they feel the transition as little as possible.
How to Create Harmony Between Your Child’s Two Houses
Don’t burden them with belongings
Sure, when you’re sharing custody of teenagers, a certain level of responsibility is to be expected. But with younger children, the pressure of remembering to bring their favorite belongings back and forth between their houses is something they shouldn’t have to feel.
That favorite stuffed animal she likes to sleep with? Drive it over to her other house if it’s forgotten. Those extra few minutes and the inconvenience of interacting with an ex-partner are worth your little one getting a better night’s sleep on a school night, or any night, really.
Another burden your child shouldn’t carry is the extra emotional baggage to have to travel with literal baggage. Don’t send you kiddo back and forth with a suitcase. If you’re sharing 50/50 each parent should have a fully stocked home. No child wants to have to haul a backpack full of clothes to school on transition day like they’re just visiting family instead of going to their own home.
Get double to avoid trouble.
Piggy backing off of the above advice, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and duplicate your child’s things. Mia’s other mom makes some of her own bath products, like soap and hand lotion. She absolutely loves it and, quite frankly, getting her to use the lotion I buy at the store is an unpleasant battle.
So instead of hitting a roadblock every night before bed and creating an inconsistency that makes her feel less cozy, we requested some of her Mama’s lotion to keep at our house too! Now Mia has something she loves no matter where she is. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.
That one sweatshirt your baby loves that keeps getting left at the other house? Just get another one and thank me later. The dream tent your little asked Santa for at Christmas? Have Mr. Claus deliver one to each house! He did to ours, and she was thrilled. Although I won’t say I was because those suckers are a pain in the ass to snap in and out of place.
Reign with the same rules.
If discipline is handed down at one house and not the other, where do you think your little one is going to want to spend most of their time? It’s almost impossible to enforce rules only 50% of the time. If we have to take Mia’s TV time away as a consequence, but she goes to her Mama’s house the next morning, that rule is going to carry zero weight by the time she returns.
Not only that, but she’s going to dread coming here if she loses something she doesn’t have to go without at her other house. I know not every blended family can co-parent without some serious hiccups, but this is one area where communication is key.
Keep track of the rules and responsibilities that come along with having two houses by sticking one of these boards up in both bedrooms!
Create consistency at school.
It’s been said that one of the most tried and true ways to tell if kids are well-adjusted to having to houses is the inability for their teachers to tell which house they’re coming from or heading to each day when they’re at school. I believe this 100%.
School starts at 8:30, but Mama tries to get her there at 8:15 to get settled. Try your best to drop off at 8:15 too. Does she usually have a snack in the car after school before swim class on Tuesdays? Try to have that snack ready on your Thursdays! The less anyone involved notices whose night it is, the better. I know this isn’t always possible, but when it is, it’s so worth it.
Not everything is always going to be exactly the same in both of your child’s houses, and that’s okay! Every parent has a unique style and sometime’s it’s fun to have specific routines and traditions at each home.
My wife’s favorite show growing up was Tom & Jerry, so that’s something she only likes to do when she’s here with us because it feels special. What’s most important is to be in tune with where they need consistency and give it to them where you can
What are your best tips for transitions between houses? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Beth is one of three moms raising one fun, feisty little redhead. Over at the Babbling Blonde, she provides support and inspiration to women in nontraditional families, from stepmoms to LGBTQ parents. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Download her free guide of 7 strategies for becoming stepmom strong here.