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Tips to make child exchanges easier for everyone

Child exchanges ordered by a judge can be emotional, especially when parents are still adjusting to their new reality. To make this process a little easier, there are things parents can do before, during, and following an exchange to alleviate the stress.

Before an exchange

Preparation can be a key component in making an exchange go smoothly, especially high-conflict exchanges. Parents should know when and where they will meet and make every effort to get there on time.

Parents can also remind children of the exchange, and help them gather any items they might need to bring to the other's parents house. This includes backpacks, blankets, toys, books, or other items that travel with a child.

During an exchange

Keeping exchanges brief and free of anything but polite conversation is critical.  You are the adults. Your children depend on a conflict-free exchange environment that is already painful for them - even under the best circumstances.

If you are taking your child, you might want to bring something familiar or fun for your child if he or she is having a difficult time leaving the other parent. If you are leaving your child, don't say things you know will make him or her feel guilty, scared or upset to go with the other parent.

After an exchange

Leaving your son or daughter is difficult. To alleviate some of your own anxiety, consider planning something fun for yourself after the exchange that you couldn't have done with a minor child. Hang out with friends. Spend an afternoon reading at a cafe. Take yourself out to a movie. 

When you have your child, think about what they want to do. Not every exchange should be punctuated by gifts or special outings, but remember that it can be a difficult adjustment for your child so pay close attention to what your child might want or need. This might be some quiet time at home or just running around at a park to get expend some anxious energy.

Above all else, parents should comply with any guidelines set in a custody order regarding exchanges and focus on making the experience as easy as possible for a child.

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