It's never easy on kids when they have to shuffle back and forth between two homes. (In most cases, one home will feel more like "home" and the other will make them feel like a visitor.) Packing bags, adjusting to a new set of rules, not having friends nearby, different routines -- it can all be stress points for kids. Depending on your custody agreement, you may or may not have a choice about dropping your child off with your ex for the weekend. Your child may complain to you about not wanting to go. You may hear stories of their experiences that upset you. Your kids may even exhibit behaviors that show they are having a hard time with the situation.
As hard as it is to see your kids go through a weekend separation from you, make sure that you are the strong one to help them get through it. To make the transition even easier on them, find some ways to make the experience better and the transition smoother. It will benefit your kids in the long run to grow up feeling as safe and secure as possible in both homes and to have as little stress as possible about a situation beyond their control.
Think about trying some of the following ideas the next time you have to drop your child off with your ex for the weekend:
Send something from home. This can be a favorite blanket or toy, a comforting CD or a certain pillow, or whatever else reminds them of "home." Pack it with the things you send for their weekend away. Tuck notes in a special place, one for each night, reminding your child that you're thinking of them. You can create a little bag of things they can take filled with pictures, special mementos or even a snack to give them a little dose of home when they get homesick. Ask your child to help choose some small items to bring along.
Speak positively. A weekend isn't that long, but it may seem like it for your child. Depending on the circumstances, you may hate the idea of your child spending any time with your ex. However, your child's perspective will be formed largely from how you convey yours. Don't speak negatively about the weekend away, about your ex or about how lonely you'll be without your kids. Those thoughts only serve to make kids feel guilty and responsible for your unhappiness, which is unfair. Speak positively about the fun your kids will have and let them know you'll be excited to hear about their adventures when they return home. If that's too much of a stretch, it's best not to say anything at all.
Stay amicable. Whatever your issues are with your ex, your kids don't need to be put in the middle. When you have to see him while dropping the kids off, be cordial and don't let emotions come into the mix. Remember that your kids love both you and your ex. It puts undue pressure on them to feel they must choose sides in a battle. If you're concerned a fight could break out, kiss and hug them before they get out of the car so you can leave as quickly as possible once you've dropped them off.
Select a proxy. If you just can't stand the thought of seeing your ex when you drop your kids off for the weekend, ask a friend or relative to do it. Preferably choose someone who is not emotionally involved in the situation. It's better to let someone else do it for you than to risk getting into a fight in front of the kids. Your kids are the innocent party in your issues with your ex. Keeping them as far away from the drama as possible will help with their emotional well-being in a tumultuous situation.