Explaining Custody Schedules

Just as it was important to speak to your children concerning the separation or divorce between you and your co-parent, it is just as important for you and your co-parent to explain custody schedules to your children. Custody involves all of you, but your child will be most affected as they will be the ones who must adjust to living in two different households. Below are a few tips on how to approach the conversation with your children.

Make sure your kids know that both parents love and enjoy spending time with them. It is essential that your child knows that you and your co-parent will always be there to provide love and support no matter what.

Explain the visitation schedules to your child. Your child needs to know that they will be spending time with both parents. Children need certainty and explaining exactly how the schedule will work will reassure them. Remember that the more information children have about the changes they will soon encounter, the better they will be able to adapt. More information about creating a visual visitation calendar is available below:

Kids find comfort in concrete, visual reminders that let them know what to expect.

1. Print a few weeks’ worths of pages at a time, so you can use this every week. Add dates to the calendar (kids can help).

2. Together, talk through the plan for the coming week (for instance, “Let’s mark the days you’ll be with Mommy this week.”). Choose a consistent way to represent this (such as a certain color or shape to mark “Mommy days”). Highlighters can be fun!

3. Add things kids have to look forward to each week (such as movie night, a play date, or a trip to the playground). Help children display the calendar so that they can see it often. Kids may also like crossing out each day to keep track of time.

Sesame Street Communities has a free downloadable weekly calendar. Click HERE to download.

Let your child know they are welcome in both homes. It may also help to place your child’s personal items in each home to help ensure that your child feels comfortable and welcome in your home as well as the home of the co-parent.

Make sure that your child understands that they can speak with either parent at any time. Although visitation may occur at set intervals, reassure your child that they can contact the other parent whenever they want.

Listen to their concerns and answer any questions. This is a new concept for your child, so expect many questions and try to be honest and forthcoming with your child as possible.

Refrain from conflict in front of the children. If you and your co-parent work together and operate as a united front, your child will be more at ease and will be better able to cope with the new changes.

Consider counseling. You should consider individual or family counseling if emotions are overwhelming or it there are concerns about the child moving forward in a healthy way.