If you dread handovers – you’re not alone.

If you are frustrated because you’ve managed to get your kids to tidy up the house before the Ex comes to collect them, and before you know it, they’re sick of waiting so it’s once again transformed into the bomb-site it was only half an hour ago – you’re reading the right stuff.

It’s so annoying that your Ex can still make it rain on your sunny day through a single quick remark that’s just thrown in at the hand-overs.

Handovers are the time where your children are either leaving or greeting you. It’s the time when all the attention and care ought to be focused on them and their well-being.

If you’re constantly finding handovers to be intimidating or disorganized, here is something for you.

To really get handovers working for you, you’ll need to know seven important parts of the pick-up / drop-off game:

1. What’s the Purpose of the Handovers
2. Where the Handovers Take Place
3. What You DON’T Do At Handovers
4. What You DO Do At Handovers
5. What to do if your Ex or your Child Performs
6. Dealing With The Emotions You Feel
7. Checklist for Smooth Transitions

If you can get all of these seven parts sorted, handovers will be something you take in your stride – actually look forward to – and so will your children.

There is simply too much for me to get through with you today, so we’ll start with one of the seven and if you want to know more, I invite you to take a look at the “Routines that Rock” program that goes into each of these in detail.

Today, let’s pick “Where the Handovers Take Place”.

Some people have their handovers so they see their Ex every time. Others of course manage to arrange their handovers so they never see their Ex – if that sounds like something you’d like, read on.

As much as the option of never seeing your Ex sounds like candy, there’s always something that in reality will still be ‘less than ideal’ however, this could be just the answer you’ve been looking for until the dust settles a little from with divorce.

A very common place for handovers is the parent’s house. It’s convenient. The children’s belonging are with them. They’re able to stay in a home environment until you arrive and it’s a back-stop if things get sticky with traffic jams.

Your home is a lovely place for handovers to happen for cooperative parenting teams. It’s fabulous if there’s bags to be carried, science projects to be taxied, in some cases pets too.

If there is respect and cooperation between the two parents, then home is great. However, probably if its was like that, you wouldn’t be reading this either. So back to how it is for you.

The last sentence before we started getting into the ‘lovely stuff’ should be the warning bell to you, especially if you’ve done it … it’s the back-stop!

This means that if the Ex is running late, you’ll pick up the slack. Now argument would say that regardless where it is, you’d be doing that, but this is not the case.

If you are having the handover at school – lets say the after-school-care program, they’re used to this sort of tactic and frequently have their own way of dealing with it.

Many of them now days have a $1 fine for each minute your late collecting your child. Ouch!! Just watch that add up for your Ex. Better still – it’s not you that’s having to enforce it. You’ve actually got nothing to do with it and it leaves it solely as their responsibility with the consequences hurting only them, not your children either.

If a handover at an after-school-care program or similar is not available, you could try having it done at your place with the employment of a nanny, or similar. Stay away from family or friends. It needs to be a professional relationship that has the financial transaction involved to make sure it stays a non-emotional transaction.

Another option for handovers is to meet at a neutral place. Something convenient like McDonalds where there is a playground, coffee, and food. Sure, I can hear the health arguments now but I can tell you that the lack of stress will make up for the bad food. Both aren’t great for the body, but one is poor for the children’s relationship with their parents – and it’s not the Big Mac.

If you decide on a neutral place this can also save on travelling time for you both as you can meet half way. It shows reasonable co-operation, good fun stop for the kids in between, and a public safe place if tantrums, poor behaviour or abusive language is normal.

Usually people like to behaviour better in public, so keeping it in a family environment is a good step. Avoid places that have alcohol available. It’s not a good example for your children to have a parent who has been drinking any alcohol to then take the keys and expect their child to be in the car with them.

The health of your handovers is like a barometer of your co-parenting team. It will give you an indication of where the tricky stuff still lurks and it’s worth getting these healthy.

This is where your children see you interacting with their other parent – and they’re watching everything. How you talk. Do you shy away? Do you become defensive? Do you avoid talking? Do you laugh? Do you smile and welcome them?. Do you treat them like you do someone you respect? Do you talk to them as though they’re really special to your child?

Every little change in behaviour, shift in energy, quiver of your voice, defensive stance, glaring look – will all be noted by your children. Make no mistake.

If you’ve got questions, stories, or comments to this email, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at Questions@ComplexFamily.com

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Jill Darcey (author, parent, founder, and speaker) is a mother of three with thousands of hours of experience as a counsellor and coach, and more than a decade of real-time experience with "complex family" parenting --- parenting through separation, divorce or some other family breakdown. Jill is someone who has both vision and wisdom and has learned a lot of what does and doesn't work — and some of it the hard way!

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