Holiday Child Custody: Top 10 Dos and Donts

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Great holiday advice for the Single Parent. Holiday Child Custody exchanges can be challanging. Learn the top 10 dos and donts for this holiday season of CoParenting.

Top 10
Do’s and Don’ts in Child Custody Exchange

Whether you are in the early stages of
divorce or years into a custody/visitation arrangement, ‘interfacing’ with your
ex can ignite a huge laundry list of negative emotions. This is why you are divorced. The problem is,
when you have children with someone – you are tied to them for life. Even when you would like to burn your
marriage license and toss any photographic evidence of your relationship into
the garbage, you will be dealing with you ex until your child turns 18. Hopefully, your feelings for your ex aren’t
as toxic as I have just described, but negative residual feelings from a failed
marriage are more common than not. I’ve
heard it said that anger is like a poison to the person who tolerates or
thrives off it. When you are working
through feelings of anger, disillusionment and/or betrayal, it sometimes feels
impossible maintain your composure where your ex is concerned. The critical time of exchanging your
child/children is sadly a common opportunity to argue with and belittle your
ex. Not only is this unhealthy for you,
but it is painful and potentially traumatic for your child/children. You can’t control your ex’s behaviour, but
you can certainly make choices that will reduce a potentially volatile
situation for yourself and your kid/s with the below DO’s and Don’ts during
child exchange.


Be on time. It is respectful of your ex and gives your
kid/s a sense of stability and comfort in knowing that their Dad is reliable. This is the number 1 Do because it is the
most important to your kids.

Have your kid/s meet you on the sidewalk or driveway when picking
them up
. There is no need to enter your ex’s home
where drama can ensue. Your kid/s don’t
want to see their parents fight at all, as it deeply hurts them and will fuel
your hostility.

Ensure the pick-up time, location and duration of your parenting
visitation/custody has been clearly arranged prior to the pick-up day.
Confusion creates
chaos which ignites negative feelings and bad behaviour between the ex’s. A parenting schedule and/or prior
arrangements via email will keep your focus targeted on your time with your kid/s. A phone conversation or an in-person discussion
at the pick-up time can spiral into other issues that are completely
inappropriate in front of your child/children.

Try to arrange a pick up from school and drop off to school. This way you will not have
to have any contact with your ex and make your time with your kid/s completely
drama free.

Open communication. If your kid/s seem sad when you pick them up,
ask them what’s bothering them before you leave the vicinity of their mother’s
home. They may want to run back to get a
toy or kiss their mother once more before leaving. If they know that you are sympathetic and
understand their complicated feelings during this time of upheaval, they will
likely appreciate having their voice heard and feel empowered.

Post a parenting schedule on a visible location. A schedule posted on a
readily visible location like on a fridge will allow the kid/s a ‘map’ so they
know what to expect.

Plan a fun activity. A fun activity or
meal at the beginning of your time with your kid/s will reduce any confusion,
sadness or intensity that may be present at the moment of exchange.

Bring a pet to greet your kids. This will bring your kid/s instant happiness!

Treat the exchange as a completely normal event. Don’t behave as if your
visitation is a special occasion, as it is a normal part of their new family

Respect the varying needs at different stages of development. Older kid/s and teens will
likely assert their interests and preferences.
You may have a new family with young kids and want to keep your teen in
the same parenting schedule in perpetuity, but being social and asserting their
independence is critical to a teens’ development. It may be inconvenient, but
your teen needs to develop his life independent of you.


DON’T show up with a date or girlfriend.
Especially when your kid/s are young, they really need your full attention
during their time with you. They may
also feel guilty and/or sad that they are spending time with a new woman as
opposed to their mother. As they get older they will likely enjoy your partner,
but if you have young kids – focus on them.
You may want to stick it to your ex by bringing another woman around,
but this will surely instigate bad feelings, probably followed by bad

DON’T invite your ex to join you on an activity or meal. You are not
married anymore and this will be confusing to your kid/s. I know this sounds odd, as a good
relationship with your ex sounds like a healthy goal. And it is.
But there needs to be boundaries to keep your kid/s understanding of the
new familial dynamic.

DON’T engage your ex in any discussions financial or otherwise. Conversations about money,
custody, visitation, dating, etc., are totally inappropriate in front of your
kid/s. If your ex is relentless with
comments and/or questions, ask the kid/s to wait in your car, walk away and
request that she put her questions in an email.

DON’T verbally disparage your ex. When you pick up your kid/s, you may not
approve of their clothing, etc. If you
complain about whatever issue you feel your ex is responsible for it only make
your kid/s feel bad.

DON’T drill your kids about your ex’s personal life. When you pick up your kid/s,
keep the conversation light and positive when you first receive them. They don’t want to be your spy; they want you
to lavish them with love and attention.

DON’T force a visit with a hysterical and defiant child. It may be best to walk away
if your child is inconsolable and doesn’t want to leave their mother. BUT, you need to investigate the nature of
this defiance. It maybe that your child
is very young and needs more time with his mother at this stage of development. Or, you may want to involve a family
therapist to assist with whatever issue your child is facing.

DON’T use your child as a messenger. Your kid/s do not want to be an intermediary
between their feuding parents. This is a
highly unfair position to put them in.

DON’T be ridged in your schedule.
You may have plans with your kid/s, but if
he is sick or has school responsibilities you need to be flexible.

DON’T dismiss the possibility of a third party. Where there is high
conflict, a third party either agreed upon or through the court can seamlessly
transfer the kid/s between parents.

DON’T return your kid/s late and/or unprepared. Return your kid/s on time
and with their proper clothing, e.g. winter mitts, and

: The Writer of the popular blog: – a comedic collection of the female
perspective on Divorce, Dating, Parenting and Re-Invention. A Writer and Performer in Film, Television, Theatre
and Advertising for the past two decades, my most challenging role to date has
been as a single mother. Born and raised
in Toronto, Canada, graduated with an undergraduate honors degree (BFA) in
Screenwriting, Film from York University.

Richard JaramilloRichard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”

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Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of, a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children. RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents “Make Life Happen…Again!”