The Single Mom & Transition Day: 5 Tips to Put All at Ease

The Single Mom & Transition Day: 5 Tips to Put All at Ease

Transition Day: The wild roller coaster day where kids are swapped between non co-habitating parents. Are your kids crazy on that day too?!

I realize all of us have different stories of how we arrived at single motherhood, and we all have different visitation schedules. For those of us who have visitation schedules with Dad this is for you.

5 Tips to Put all at Ease on Transition Day

First, this is also not a criticism of the father’s involved in our children’s lives! This is for single dad’s too!  This is just a realization that the day they go from one parent’s set of rules to the other parent’s set of rules is typically an out of control day hitting every spectrum of the emotional roller coaster of a kid whose parent’s are not co-habitating. Well, and the parents too.

I’ve done it right and I’ve done it wrong.  I thought I’d share with you what I know and also share with you some amazing suggestions from dear single mom friends and listeners to my show.

I want to open up the door to get your suggestions of what you have done that works for your family. We can all learn from each other on today’s blog!  I never want to appear as if I have this all figured out.  Most of the time I’m your cautionary tale! So please comment away!

Here are my “5 Tips to Ease Transition Day”

1. Create a Routine

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.  Every Sunday.

I vividly remember how hard it was to go back and forth as a child myself.  My mother was single during much of my childhood.  I remember how excited I was to come back to mom’s, but trying to hide my excitement because I knew how sad my Dad was for us to leave again.  I hid my emotions, never a good thing, so I’m sure it then reared it’s ugly head in my behavior.  I think my kids are doing the same thing.

As a child my mom served tomato soup and grilled cheese every Sunday.  It was our favorite.  I look back now and think it was probably because of her limited budget.  I also look back and think she was a genius for establishing this routine.  My sister and I knew that whether it was her weekend or Dad’s weekend we would be eating tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner.  When we were dropped off by Dad she would have it waiting for us. Every Sunday. Without fail.

It gave us comfort because it was something we could depend on.  Our world’s were constantly changing going back and forth with a suitcase, but one thing that was constant. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.  I am now doing this with my kids.  I make this “World’s Easiest Taco Soup” from my dear friend, Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate with grilled cheese.  Every time they come home. As they get older you could even engage them in the routine to give them a role in the transition and a sense of belonging.

A fellow single mom I respect dearly, Sera, offered this idea: “When my boys would leave for the summer, winter break, or thanksgiving break I would pick them up from the airport and take them to dinner. Talk about he fun things they did while they were gone. And get settled back into our routine over the next couple of days.”

Oh and Dennise added this genius idea on Facebook: Often times we do a low key family movie night with a ‘snack dinner’. It’s a favorite of all of theirs. Blankets, pillows etc and chip and dip trays full of random snacks to share. Then the next day we hit the ground running with business as usual. It works for us.”

It doesn’t have to be just about food!  A hero Air Force Single Mom, Lisa, who’s has been through several deployments shares this, “I don’t make any plans for transition day (my kids transition every week, that’s a whole different set of challenges). They really like being able to come home and relax. Silly little traditions help. I have teens and tweens, so we just started Face Mask Fridays. They love it. A little $2 Wal-Mart face mask and a movie make the perfect night, and it’s something they anticipate and look forward to. And since my kids are constantly back and forth between mom and dad’s houses, i try to keep their routine similar regardless of who’s house they’re at. Similar chores, homework gets done at the same time, bedtime is the same, etc. And to make MY life easier, I transition a day early. Get the groceries, run errands, (maybe even a little quiet time) whatever needs to be done BEFORE they get home so I’m not stressed and they get the best of me the day they return. I save my crazy for midweek 

2. Set Aside Time

When I asked for your ideas on Facebook their was an overwhelming consensus that TIME is vital to transition day. I like to do NOTHING on the day/night they come back.  Well as little as possible.  I’ve said no to birthday parties, and missed sports practices to ease the transition for all of us.

My sunshines go for long chunks of time because their father lives out of state. They could be gone from 2 weeks to 6 weeks, so we have a lot to catch up.  They all want to talk at once, they all fight for my time, and they all have a lot to say.  Thankfully I’ve had time to rest and my patience factor is at an all time high so I force myself to just sit on the couch and listen to anything and everything they want to say.

Mindy who listens to the “Amanda Carroll Show” says, I try to be “ready” for them…errands done, minimum stress, put my agenda away and listen and tune into them all the way. For me, that also means putting down my phone and letting them come home and just chill. I try not to have them do chores or homework, just “be” with them.”  

Putting the phone down!  Now that’s what I need to do! Thanks Mindy!

3. Give them alone time

I’ve also learned not to be selfish with my time.  My sunshines have going back and forth since they were 4 and under so at first all they wanted was to basically be attached to me with they got home. We would all sleep in the same bed for at least a week.  My youngest still does that, she is 6.

Now, I’ve noticed they want to connect back with their space too.  My oldest, Emily, is now 10 and when she came home from Christmas I noticed she just wanted to be in her room.  She even dug out some Barbies and quietly played, reconnecting with her space and reconnecting with self.  It was hard for me not to interrupt!

4. Keep it Calm and Happy

I’ve learned it’s also important to keep the day light hearted.  I know you want to hug their necks and squeeze them until the pop, and tell them how miserable you were without them, but a single hug and  “I missed you” and “welcome home” will suffice.

I’ve learned the hard way that this is not the time to point out to their Dad all the things he did wrong according to you during the visit, or catalog the things that you packed for them that didn’t come back (that’s a text message later), or talk about money.  Use me as a cautionary tale!  I’ve done those things and it backfired.  The kids were even more emotional, I was emotional, and it make “transition day” even more difficult.

My friend Selena says, “I keep the home calm, warm hugs, cuddles and relaxation . Special show or movie . Just relax.”

If you’re not on great terms with the other parent then just keep it simple, choose dignity, say goodbye and handle any issues through text after the kids are asleep!

An amazing single mom of 3 I’m honored to know, Tamal, shared this great idea for younger kids: My kids always seem a bit guarded and quiet on transition day. They don’t want to talk and answer questions, so on the drive home I’ve started telling them stories about when they were babies. It’s been so great, it gets them laughing and by the time we’re back home they’ve “softened” a bit. Now I spend my drive to get them thinking of one silly baby/toddler story about each of them.” I imagine that helps her deal with the transition too! 

5. Don’t Go Fishing for Information

Oh I know you want to know what went down trust me, but your kids will feel so much more comfortable if you don’t ask if there was a woman there, or how the new step-mom treated them.

This is a tip from my dear friend Melissa! She says, “try and not bombard the kids with a million questions about what they did at their dads house, what he said, etc….don’t grill them(it’s hard not to do I know) trust me, they will tell you. :)!

You don’t need to know if they ate organic and gluten free either.  Just listen to the information that they offer up and nod.

My fellow Delta Zeta sorority sister and single mom herself, Jen, has a genius way to handle this.  She says,When we have time to chat, I ask “what was your favorite part of your trip/time away?” – This usually opens the door for them to tell me about what they did without me grilling them for information or having to ask tons of questions.”

BONUS TIP: Give away unreasonable amounts of GRACE

This is by far the best tip from the amazing Christina in Galt, CA. I came up with 5 tips and then she added this on Facebook and I had to add it to the blog.  She says,  “I make it like any other day. Life as usual. I just try to extend more grace if they are crabby or hurting. But I don’t cater to the situation and I be sure to not act like it’s a big deal. They’re home….period.

Like my favorite author, Bob Goff, says “give away unreasonable amounts of grace like it’s the only size it comes in.”

You think it’s hard for you, imagine what it feels like for them.  Keep your ideas coming!  I already know a few things I’m going to do differently on “transition day” thanks to you!


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