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Being bounced from one parent’s house to the other’s is stressful for kids. The rules are constantly changing, there is little consistency in their lives. These kids spend all their time either at Mom’s house or Dad’s house. Neither one truly belonging to them. There are things parents can do to help relieve their children’s stress and fears.

First, help your child to create a “going away routine.” Explain to your child that this is something you will do together the day of each and every switch. Stress to your child that this routine is a way of reminding him/her that you love them and will miss them very much. It should be something you enjoy doing together that is relaxing and reassuring for the child.

When it is time for your child to leave, make sure you tell them you’ll miss them. Don’t assume they already know. A child needs to hear the words each and every time.

If it’s not upsetting to your child, call them every day they are gone either around breakfast time or bedtime. If hearing from you makes things worse for your child, or you end up arguing with your ex, then don’t call.

When your child returns, spend time sharing what you both did while you were apart. Make that time special. Create something your child can keep. Have your child draw pictures or write about their time away. You do the same. Now, ask your child to illustrate your weekend story. You draw pictures (or write the words) to go with your child’s story. Put everything together in book form, using cardboard for a book cover. Have your child decorate one side of the cover and you decorate the back.

Talk with your ex about the rules around their house. Try to keep the rules and expectations as close as possible. If that isn’t possible, make sure your child knows what is required of him/her at each house. Sit down and discuss it. Make sure your child clearly understands. Confusion and uncertainty is a main cause of stress in children. They need to have limits and expectations clearly outlined and explained.

Try to be understanding of behavioral changes during this stressful time. If your child reacts to the change with depression, anger, or anything that strikes you as particularly odd, consult a family/child counselor or your pediatrician for advice.