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Custody Transition Day

Pick up and drop off days for a custody exchange can be challenging for both parents and kids. Creating traditions and minimizing the unknown of transition days can make the experience less stressful for your children, and for you.

Custody exchange days can often be stressful for everyone involved. You may be anxious in anticipation of a prickly conversation with your co-parent, and your kids may feel the stress of leaving you to see their parent. No matter how excited they are to spend time with the other parent, they will likely carry some anxiety surrounding switching houses and watching you interact. Of course, if you are displaying sadness or concern, they will likely feel that as well. Here are some tips and ideas to help co-parents create a more positive environment surrounding pick-up and drop off days:

Have a packing list

If your child is gone for an extended period, make sure they have everything they need. Double-check your Shared Calendar to see if your kids have upcoming extracurricular activities, birthday parties, or field trips that will require specific equipment. If your kids have special blankets or pillows that they need to fall asleep, add that to the top of your packing list.

Child running to father

Pick a neutral location

If it is not otherwise specified in your parenting plan, try to agree upon a location that suits both parents. It is not an option for all co-parents to share their address with the other parent. This is is when a neutral drop off location can be a good compromise. The State and Federal Access & Visitation Program page lists neutral drop off locations in each state, and the Supervised Visitation Network also provides resources for parents.

In some high-conflict scenarios, meeting in the parking lot of your local police precinct may be required. Otherwise, a public location such as a parking lot or a restaurant may be acceptable for both parents.

Keep it focused on the kids

Pick up and drop off times are not the moment to air your frustrations or to try to have a prolonged conversation. The goal is to transition the kids smoothly, so give them an extra hug, and tell them to enjoy their time with your co-parent.

If you find yourself constantly arguing with your co-parent during these times, you may want to reach out to your attorney or to a mediator to devise an alternate transition plan. By identifying a third party or another strategy that allows your kids to go between homes without conflict, you will lessen the stress of the exchange for everyone.

Children baking with their mother

Build your own traditions

During a live Co-parenting & Coffee event, Sarah Nicole Landry of The Birds Papaya shared her own family’s transition day tradition that her family implemented to create more positive memories on the exchange day. She said that her family has pancakes every Sunday, their family’s transition day, to give everyone something to look forward to and ease the stress of custody exchange days.

Creating traditions and memories on those tough days can help your family have something cheerful to look forward to instead of dreading the coming day. In Sarah’s words, “I don’t know what the rest of their day looks like, that’s out of my control, but what I can control is what it looks like in the morning.”


Of course, at TalkingParents, the importance of strong communication is always stressed. However, in this case, we don’t solely mean talking to your co-parent. Having conversations with your kids about what to expect, and reminding them when the exchange or visitation will occur, is important too. If your kids can’t tell time or read a calendar, it is even more important to communicate very clearly, so they do not feel surprised by the transition.

Allow your child to speak about the activities that they did with their other parent and encourage their excitement about future visitation. While it may be challenging to hear about plans that do not involve you, it will help your child transition seamlessly between their two homes.

At the same time, speaking with your co-parent about transition details is also essential. Confirm the location and time before heading out. TalkingParents offers several tools to help with this, including Secure Messaging and the Shared Calendar

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