If you and your ex are co-parenting your children, it is important to make the transition between homes as stress free and easy as you can. No matter how the children are dividing their time between you, they should always feel they belong in both homes equally. Many co-parenting experts agree, children shouldn’t have to drag a suitcase or backpack between homes because it can make them feel as though they are simply “visiting”.
The easiest way to help a child feel at home in both homes, is to have duplicate items and belongings in both places. What those items are depends to a certain extent on the child’s age and interests. So, let’s take a look at some things you and your ex should consider and what you can do if they regularly fail to return items.
How should we decide what the children will need in each home?
Obvious things include toothbrushes, school uniform, favourite toys and games, and pyjamas. But other things may be of use too: old clothes for playing outside or messy play, raincoats, shoes, wellies, and underwear. All these things can potentially make your life easier and decrease the risk of getting into arguments with your ex. Older children will need hygiene products such as sanitary protection and deodorant.
Things that your children will need in both homes
One of the biggest areas of dispute between parents is clothing. Ideally, this should move freely between homes, but if one parent frequently refuses or forgets to send items back, consider some of the following suggestions:
- Keep the child’s dirty clothes in a separate back pack. You can either return them unwashed, or wash and return your child in them.
- Set aside a time each month to sort items out and return any forgotten items with the children at the end of their next stay
- Depending on their age, make your child responsible for their own clothing. If it doesn’t come back with them, then they won’t be able to wear it.
- Your child is likely to be attached to their toys and games and wants to have them to hand wherever they are. Items that belong to other children, such as step siblings, remain with them. To avoid confusion and upset, only things that actually belong to the children should be moved between households. Consider duplicating favourite toys, as it can eliminate a lot of frustration and ease the transition between households.
- Young children generally have a lot of gear that goes along with them – pushchairs, car seats, high chairs and other items should be duplicated across households to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.
- Handling medications can be a huge challenge, particularly if the other parent has to collect the children from school where they may not be able to carry medications with them. Some schools allow parents to leave medications in the office so the other parent can pick it up at the end of the day. Keep over the counter medications in both homes with each parent being responsible for replenishing it when it runs out.
What can I do if my ex refuses to return items after contact?
This is a common issue among co-parents and one that doesn’t have an easy answer. Here are some suggestions:
- Return the child in the clothes they came in, although this is difficult if you collected them from school and then they have to wear their uniform on a Sunday morning.
- Buy a cheap pair of pyjamas or leggings/joggers to change them into when they are going back. If you start to run out because they are not returned, ask the child to collect them up whilst you wait outside.
- If the child is old enough to have a mobile phone, send them a text the night before they return and tell them to make sure they put all their clothes/other items in the return bag.
- Send the child to the other parent with a list of all the clothes/items you want returned.
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