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Prepare the kids for fall custody transitions

It's hard to believe that within less than a month, the kids will return to school. But it's true, as the first day of school for children enrolled in the McKinney Independent School District is Aug. 20.

Children of divorced parents often struggle with these transitional periods, especially if the summer custody schedule is radically different from the schedule they follow during the school year. Below are some tips parents might find to make the summer-to-fall custody transition a bit easier.

Factor the kids' ages into the transition plan

Parents of multiple children likely already realize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to co-parenting the kids. A 6-year-old's needs will be vastly different from a 12-year-old's, and the co-parenting agreement and custody arrangements will ideally reflect this.

While they will undoubtedly be loathe to admit it, many 12-year-old kids secretly look forward to the first day of school. For one, it's a chance to reunite with peers with whom they may not have spent time since the end of last school year.

Then, too, the start of the school year is heralded by much excitement -- football games, pep rallies, back-to-school dances and all of the extracurricular activities and sports in which they choose to participate.

Pre-teens may transition better if they are given calendars to fill in their activities and custody transfers. This way, the kids can have a blueprint to check at any time to see where they will be each weekend in the event of sleep-overs and other get-togethers with their friends.

Coordinating the kids' social schedules with the custody arrangements can get quite complex the older the kids get. Involving them in the intricacies of planning can help kids stay organized and give them a sense of self-determination. They can learn to pick and choose their activities in order to maximize their time with both parents.

Younger kids need a lot of structure

If you have children age 6 or younger, co-parenting has other challenges. While some kids are naturally more adventuresome than their peers, many in this age group will feel more comfortable when they are staying with one parent over the other. At this age, kids typically identify more with one parent than the other.

It can be also be something as simple as the familiarity of their old room in the former family home. But parents shouldn't get discouraged if their younger children struggle to adjust to the school-year custody arrangement.

Remember, in most cases, the kids have been living under summer custody arrangements for three months. At this tender age, three months can feel like a lifetime, so be prepared to absorb with aplomb any hiccups in the custody transition.

Providing the kids with daily telephone access to their other parent when they are with you can ease their anxiety. You might also arrange for the absent parent to read the children a bedtime story or play an online game together after dinner.

Incorporating this into the nightly routine is one way of accommodating children's needs for structure while also allowing them to touch base daily with their other parent.

You may need to tweak your custody order

At a certain point, what worked in the past for the custody of the kids may no longer be viable. In these cases, it might be necessary to modify your child custody arrangements to continue meeting your children's ongoing needs.

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