Tips on Pick-Ups and Drop-Offs for Coparents

When you and an ex-partner are co-parenting, one principle must stand out above all others: You need to do what’s best for your children. This means compliance with custody rulings, which are made with the kids’ needs in mind. This also means you need to do everything you can to reduce the stress a child experiences, and at pick-up or drop-off, that can be hard. Navigating co-parenting is a challenge, and as relationship therapists, we’re here to help you navigate this challenge.

Step Zero: It’s Ok If It’s Weird

Some people are great co-parents. Maybe they love each other, but they have some incompatibility that interferes with them being romantically linked. Or maybe they were always better as friends than as partners. Maybe they have nearly identical views on parenting, and that wasn’t a problem in the relationship.

But most of us aren’t those perfect people, and that’s totally ok. Our first tip for anything regarding co-parenting is to embrace the idea that it’s a work in progress. Sometimes terms need to be renegotiated. Sometimes your kid’s schedule may throw a wrench in your court-approved plans. It’s important to acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a perfect co-parenting plan, and that sometimes things need to change. Lean into the idea that you and your ex are doing the best that you can for your kid, and hold yourself to a high standard. If you can both do that and put your kid first, you can overcome any weirdness between you and your ex.

Tips for Smooth Pick-Ups and Drop-Offs

So how can you make pick-up and drop-off time easier for your kids? By centering their needs and following this guidance, you and your co-parent can make this difficult time much easier for your children.

Establish a Routine

Consistency is key. Set a regular schedule for pick-ups and drop-offs and stick to it as much as possible. This helps create stability for both the parents and the children. In official shared custody agreements, family court can provide guidance on scheduling. Your child should also have a routine they can fall into once they get to the other parent’s. Even if it’s as simple as doing homework or something fun like playing a game, knowing what to expect and having a way to transition into an activity makes it easier for kids to wrap their heads around what’s going on.

Communicate Clearly

Keep lines of communication open with your co-parent. Discuss any changes to the schedule in advance and be flexible when necessary. Use a shared calendar or messaging app to stay organized. You should also be clear when communicating with your child about what’s happening

Choose Neutral Locations

If possible, pick-up and drop-off locations should be neutral and convenient for both parents. This could be a school, daycare, or a public place with easy access and parking. In virulent divorces, family court may instruct you on where to schedule your hand-offs. If communication is difficult or emotions run high, consider using a neutral third party, such as a mediator or family member, to facilitate pick-ups and drop-offs.

Be Punctual

Respect each other’s time by arriving on time for pick-ups and drop-offs. If you’re running late, communicate with your co-parent and provide updates. Keep in mind that continual tardiness can violate custody agreements. Make sure that you keep a record of any agreements or changes to the pick-up and drop-off schedule. This can help prevent misunderstandings and provide clarity in case of disputes.

Respect Boundaries

Keep interactions with your co-parent polite and respectful, especially in front of your kids. Avoid arguments or discussing contentious issues during pick-ups and drop-offs. Respect each other’s personal space and boundaries during pick-ups and drop-offs. Keep interactions brief and focused on the children. Remember, moving between parents can be very stressful for them, so both you and your co-parent should keep the focus on the well-being of the kids. Staying positive and reassuring will help the transition be as smooth as possible for them.

Prepare in Advance

Have your children’s belongings ready to go before pick-up or drop-off to minimize delays. This includes packing essentials like clothing, school supplies, comfort objects and any special items they may need. Some families keep two sets of gear, one with each parent. This can make the transition less stressful, since your child knows they have clothes, supplies, and their other needs at both homes.

What If My Child Doesn’t Want To Go With Them?

Split custody is often challenging for parents and kids alike. If your child doesn’t want to go with their other parent during custody exchanges, it can be a very difficult situation to navigate. You need to find out why a child doesn’t want to go with the other parent. Much of the time, it’s emotional, so you should encourage them to express their feelings and concerns without judgment. Try to understand the reasons behind your child’s reluctance. It could be related to separation anxiety, adjustment issues, conflict with the other parent, or other factors. Addressing the root cause can help find a resolution. But at the same time, you should also reassure your child’s safety. If something is wrong at the other parent’s home, you need to know.

Once you’ve found out why they don’t want to go, it’s important to reassure your child that they will be okay and that you will be there for them when they return. Remind them of the positive aspects of spending time with the other parent and the fun activities they can look forward to. Let your child know that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to feel hesitant or anxious about the custody exchange, but remind them that it needs to happen because both parents love them and want to spend time with them. What you say is important, but so is your body language. Be open and loving, and try to keep the burden of your emotions off of them. Saying “I’ll miss you” makes them think they’re responsible for the way you’re feeling. But saying something like “I love you and I’ll be thinking about you all week!” is more encouraging.

While being empathetic to your child’s feelings, it’s important to maintain consistency with the custody schedule as much as possible. Consistent routines can provide stability and predictability for children during times of transition. However, if the reluctance becomes an ongoing problem, you and your ex need to discuss the possibility of adjusting the custody schedule to accommodate your child’s needs and preferences. Flexibility and cooperation between co-parents can help alleviate stress for your child, and their needs always must come first in any shared custody situation.

If your child’s reluctance persists or if there are underlying emotional or behavioral concerns, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and strategies to help your child cope with the transition. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the therapists here at Love Heal Grow if you and your kid need help with negotiating and working around the complicated structures of divorce.


Love Heal Grow Relationship Therapy Center Sacramento

Free Relationship Therapy Starter Pack

*How to Find a Therapist

*What to Expect in Your First Appointment

*How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

*How to talk to your boss about going to therapy during the workday

*How to seek reimbursement for therapy from your PPO plan

*Over twenty pages of relationship and life stressor tips and exercises that it would usually take 10+ therapy sessions to cover.

Check your email!