How To Maintain Sanity As The Custodial Parent When Your Kids Return From The Other Parent’s House
By Mir Kamin of Would Coulda Shoulda
1. Remind yourself that you’re happy to have them home — and then tell them.
It’s easy to get caught up in petty annoyances and forget to say, “Hey, you know what? I’m glad you’re back!” It will help keep you focused on the good stuff, and it will help your kids remember that the back-and-forth is hard for you, too. Don’t skimp on the hugs and kisses, either, even if they’re being wild animals.
2. Learn to say “That’s nice” — and mean it.
When the endless litany of “But Daddy lets us!” begins, you’ll be ready to resist the temptation to argue about it. Because it is nice (for them) that they got away with murder while they were gone. Being angry about it is pointless. The more times you say, “That’s nice,” the easier it becomes to believe it — and the less often the kids will try to bait you.
3. Give your kids one day of asylum.
Don’t suspend all the rules, of course, but the temptation is to tighten the reins back up immediately, which always results in everyone feeling chafed. They’re cranky and hopped up on sugar and happy to be home but feeling conflicted and struggling with reentry; for one day, practice extra patience.
4. Give yourself two days of asylum.
You’ll spend their first day back tending to your kids, and the laundry and mood swings they’ve brought home. On the second day, make sure you can do something that nourishes your spirit so that you’re replenished from the emotional day beforehand. If you can manage something truly decadent, spectacular! But even if all you can squeeze in is a fancy coffee that morning or a quick chat with a good friend that afternoon, make sure you do it.
5. Put some spontaneity into your stability.
It took me a long time to figure out that even though I’m not the “fun parent,” I can still give my kids schedule and order and occasionally do something unexpected. Once the kids are settled back into their routines and following the house rules, surprise them with a trip for ice cream or letting them stay up to watch a movie. It’s a lot easier to skip being bitter about “never getting to be the fun one” by, you know, remembering to have some fun occasionally!
Published December 8, 2008. Last updated June 27, 2018.