Making Life in Two Homes Easier
With September’s arrival, and the return to in-person school, many parents are looking forward to reestablishing routines that create a sense of predictability and comfort for their children. For children with two homes, healthy routines have the added benefit of streamlining children's transitions between homes and helping their parents minimize conflicts. Children feel more settled when they do not carry belongings between their two homes. When kids are without their necessary items it causes stress for themselves and their caregivers. As parents begin back to school routines, here are some tips to begin the “bring back” routines. These tips will help reduce transition day stress, build independence, and hopefully create a sense of comfort.
1. As much as, possible provide the basic staples in both homes. Minimize the number of items that need to move between homes. Include underwear, pajamas, t-shirts, pants, socks, and similar toiletries or hygiene products in each home.
2. Develop a process or routine for keeping track of items. Make a list, using pictures for younger children, that kids can check-off as they gather their belongings. Keep the list handy where kids can find and use it. It is most helpful if both homes use a similar process.
3. Create a space to store items going between homes so they are easy to find on transition day. The BRING BACK BAG is one such option. Other options include plastic tubs or baskets. Keep the BRING BACK BAG* or other container in a central, kid-accessible location.
4. Well before transition time, help younger children to find and place their items in the bag or box. Try to complete this task away from bedtime so that the child’s evening can be relaxed.
5. For children in grades 4 and up, finding the items should be a supported but independent activity. For children in elementary school grades, review the list and the contents of the BAG with them to be sure they haven’t overlooked anything. For those in middle school allow them to complete the task on their own, offering your help if they need it. Build their independence and sense of responsibility.
6. For high school students leave the task to them, perhaps offering a reminder the evening before transitions to “get prepared”. High schoolers should typically be able to plan for their needs in the days ahead and should learn to live with the consequences of having forgotten something. If your high school student needs more support, help them build their independence by slowly withdrawing your level of supervision.
7. If possible, arrange a safe place at each home for you and your co-parent to leave larger items to be picked up at your convenience. Some parents provide each other with a key to their garage for this purpose, others are comfortable sharing a house key, some use the security office of their apartment or condominium, while others leave things on the front porch just before pick-up time.
8. Do not fuss if items you purchased spend time in the other parent’s home. You purchased the item for your child, it is theirs to leave where they wish. If you need the item returned, send a message to your co-parent about putting the item in the BRING BACK BAG. Limiting which items can move between homes transfers the pain and frustration of two homes off of you and onto your child.
9. Be patient, remember that your children are the ones moving between homes. They did not ask for this family structure and they don’t have the independence to resolve this problem on their own. It is frustrating when a parent must make a last-minute trip to the other parent’s home but, before expressing that frustration be sure you are not placing responsibility on your child when it lies with yourself or the other parent.
10. If this topic continues to be a nagging conflict for you and your former spouse, attend mediation to make an agreement that respects your child’s needs and gets both parents onside.
Below is a sample list of items that may have to go between homes. Add your own details, laminate it, and give your kids an erasable marker. Contact me for an editable version.
Wishing you smooth transitions between homes and a happy return to school.
*To order a BRING BACK BAG contact Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact button.