Few divorced couples find it easy to be good parenting partners, but it is possible. In fact, it is in the best interests of the children that you find a way to get along with your ex. Certain events can be fraught with tension: parent-teacher conferences, sports matches, music recitals and custody exchanges.

As part of your parenting plan, you and your spouse agreed on a parenting time calendar. It likely includes guidelines for custody exchanges, such as time and location for regular swaps. However, it is almost impossible to specify all aspects of the exchange. Here are some guidelines that can help you avoid exposing the children to conflict.

Do:

  • Prepare for drop-off by making sure your children have everything they need while at the other home. Older kids can help pack their backpacks and keep track of medications, sports gear and school-related items.
  • Prepare for pickup by having quiet, low-key activities planned to give the children downtime as they transition.
  • Provide essentials such as clothes, toiletries and toys at both houses. However, keep in mind that children sometimes have favorite items that they want to transport back and forth.
  • Drop children off clean and well-rested. If dropping them off close to mealtime, decide ahead of time where children will eat.
  • Be on time. If that is not possible, notify your ex as far in advance as possible and apologize sincerely for the delay.

Do not:

  • Pick a fight with your ex during the exchange. If you need to discuss a sensitive topic, do so while the children are not around. If your ex does not honor this rule and you feel yourself becoming angry, take a deep breath and end the conversation. A simple, “We need to talk about this later,” can avert a parking lot screaming match.
  • Show disrespect to your ex, or encourage your children to do so. Also, do not ignore or show contempt for others who accompany your ex to the exchange (yes, that includes a new romantic partner).

The first few exchanges may be awkward; that is normal. Take the high road and things should become easier over time.