Parent With Purpose

Handling the “Hand-off” After Divorce

I grew up in a divorced family with every-other-weekend “handoffs” as part of my life routine. Sometimes they were quick and easy; sometimes they were long and drawn out because my parents tried to talk about co-parenting business or schedules or financial matters. Some handoffs were at the 7-11 parking lot and some were at the front doors of my parents’ homes. I can’t say that there is a “one-size fits all” answer to the handoff process but I want to share ideas that are in the best interest of the children when parents are divorced.

  • Prepare the child with affirming words about the handoff before the other parent arrives.
  • As a parent, prepare yourself for the time you will be alone so when you wave goodbye you are emotionally strong and grounded. Don’t make kids feel guilty for leaving and going with the other parent.
  • Keep handoffs brief and focused on transferring the child(ren) and their belongings.
  • Use positive tone of voice when talking to the other parent or step parent.
  • Be aware of your body language during the handoff, kids will pick up on your stress or your positivity.
  • Verbally support the process with excitement and even a “happy wave” as the kids drive away.
  • For young children, consider meeting at a McDonalds’s play land or a neutral location where there is a fun distraction available.
  • Give kids some time to transition emotionally, it may take them an hour or so to adjust to their new surroundings and reengage with the family.
  • Allow kids to take something special with them between homes: stuffed animal, blanket, pillow, an item that will bring comfort to them.

I found myself facing divorce 15 years ago with a one year old daughter. I knew, because of my own childhood routines, that we would have hundreds of “handoffs” in her lifetime and I wanted to do them a bit different than my parents had done. I wanted them to be fun and happy and easy for our daughter. I did not want to have them long and drawn out or ever to feel like a negative experience to Angelia. When we were reviewing our parenting plan I suggested we NEVER have co-parenting discussions at the handoff. Instead, I suggested we talk on the phone when our daughter is asleep, we meet in person in a public location or we use email to discuss important matters. We created a process of having “co-parenting meetings” and that has served everyone very well for all these years. This way, Angelia never has to wonder what will happen at the weekly handoff; she is not stressed, we are not stressed and everyone interacts positively and peacefully.

What can you do to begin to foster the idea of a co-parent meeting with your ex?

What can you do to protect your children from hostility when exchanging them at the handoff?

What can you do to be pro-active and positive about how to handle the handoff?

For more free information on co-parenting please see


Tammy Daughtry, MMFT – Author, Co-parenting Works! Helping Your Children Thrive after DivorceCo-Founder, Counseling Center for Modern Family Dynamics NashvillProducer, “One Heart, Two Homes: Co-parenting Kids of Divorce to a Positive Future”