Wholeness Healing Today

Visit Transition: How to Leave Mom’s and Go To Dad’s

You can’t tell me what to do! I want to go back to my dad’s!

Children who are expected to spend time at one parent’s on the weekend, return to live with the other, and do so without any adjustments that is what we often see when parents separate but still remain a part of their children’s lives. So how are children expected to manage this difficult transition time? We adults have difficulty transitioning from a relaxing weekend to the routine of work on Monday morning and yet we expect our kids to move between homes without any adjustment period.

Different rules. Different meals. Different expectations. And yet both love the children. So how do parents make it easier for the kids? One of the most important things is that transition time between the two homes be allowed. Too many children feel a sense of betrayal to the parent being left because they are now gone. And they feel a sense of betrayal to the parent whose home they are returning to, especially if they enjoyed their time with the other parent. And to ignore the child’s feelings causes a child to struggle even more.

First, be as open as possible with the other parent. Let the child see mom and dad talking. If the child’s perception is that mom gives permission to love dad and vice-versa, things will be easier and the child will attain a higher comfort level in the visitation.

Then it is important that each parent recognize and validate what makes the transition easier for the child. Mom, upon picking up the child, might pull into Dairy Queen and share a banana split with the child, being careful not to ask about the visit. Children are often wary of questions about the other parent, so don’t even ask. But it is important to establish an adjustment time, something between the two houses, that lets the child re-acclimate to the parent he/she is with right now. And Dad needs to establish a similar routine, although not the same one. Dad’s transition might be a chili dog at Sonic or an order of fries at McDonald’s, being careful not to ask specifically about time at mom’s but to make sure the child knows he is interested in his life, in his schoolwork, in his interests.

You may have noticed that the ideas of transition all mentioned food. That is important; not to buy an entire meal, but to establish a small, inexpensive routine with a message. And food to a child signals that the parent will take care of them, of their needs, psychological trigger in the child’s brain.

Some children will require time alone, in their rooms, upon return to the custodial parent. Be careful not to appear offended, as the child is working hard not to hurt the parent’s feelings. Validate your child’s adjustment by allowing some time alone. While one parent may see this as depressing for the child, the child may actually be using a good coping skill to self-adjust.

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  • Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
    Licensed Professional Counselor
    Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist

  • Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.


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