Divorce is a hard process for everyone involved. When a couple with children divorce, its hard on both parents as well as the children. However, there are things both parents can do, or avoid doing, to reduce the stress divorce often causes children. When it comes to handling the children’s belongings, the following tips can make it easier on all parties involved:
- If possible, buy at least two of most things to limit back and forth issues. While the extra expense may seem nonsensical, it is less stressful, more practical, and it can still be much less expensive than fighting over the return of stuff, especially if lawyers are involved.
- For common stuff – including clothes- try not to worry about what comes back and what doesn’t. The clothes are not yours. As long as your children get to wear them, it really won’t matter where they are “housed.” Really, it won’t.
- Try to exchange things in ways that do not regularly involve your children lugging things back and forth.
- Every so often you can arrange pick-up and delivery of large amounts of stuff. Consider occasionally mailing items or using a delivery service; another option is to drop off stuff at the other parent’s place of employment or some other agreed upon location, outside the presence of children.
- Make exchanges in the parking lot at sports events or other activities. This way things can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle from parent to parent, or by designee, rather than always through the children.
- Designate a special place in the house, such as a box or basket, to hold things that should go back and forth. This is helpful in limiting the seemingly never-ending search for stuff.
- Recognize that school uniforms, sports uniforms, and special clothing require extra attention and planning. Spares are helpful. Keep an extra uniform in your vehicle for that inevitable special delivery call.
- Avoid having your children lug an overnight bag or other extra stuff to and from school whenever possible. While children of separation and divorce are far more numerous and less stigmatized than in years past, why bring attention to the situation? Students have enough stuff to lug around at school these days. Lugging more stuff simply leaves more opportunity for things to get lost or left behind.
- If you believe a delayed return of a particular item to the other house will be a problem with the other parent, see that it returns in a timely matter. If it’s a clothing item, return it laundered.
- For children’s birthdays and gift-giving holidays, communicate directly with each other about what you’re purchasing. Try hard to make some joint gift giving occur.
- While children need to be taught responsibility for their things, you should not nag your children where “this” or “that” is located.
- Do not resort to putting labels on clothes and identifying things as “mom’s” or “dad’s.”
- Don’t allow your children to feel like a “bag lady” by constantly having to carry around all of her stuff.
- Don’t try to “show up” the other parent by always buying extravagant items or spoiling the children, especially if there is significant economic disparity between parents.
- Don’t even think of keeping score of who bought what and what did not get “returned” to “your” house or the other house.
- Don’t use your children’s stuff as your free pass to keep tensions alive with the other parent.
- Do not rely on the other parent to provide you with anything. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
- When the children are anywhere within earshot, do not talk about your lack of money or the other person’s spending habits. Children always need stuff. Their shoes wear out and they grow out of clothes and jacket; none of that has anything to do with your separation or divorce.
The list above can be found in the Taylor Law & Mediation’s Divorce and separation survival guide for parents. To request a PDF copy of the entire guide, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.