I commuted back and forth between my mom's and my dad's house every other night from the ages of nine to fourteen.
I was fortunate enough to have divorced parents who got along uncommonly well and lived only five minutes apart. This was hardly the typical divorced family situation. Living in two households inevitably has its drawbacks though, regardless of the relationship your parents may have.
In addition to the general inconvenience of keeping all of your things in two different places, the pre-pubescent years tend to render you with hormonal mood swings and bouts of self-consciousness.
I'm not going to lie. It wasn't easy. I always had to plan out everything I would need for the next 24 to 48 hours well in advance and remember to pack it all up before leaving each time.
Sometimes I would forget things for school, which meant a late night trip back to the other house again to fetch it. I had to give all of my friends four different phone numbers to reach me at — the main line at each house and the kids’ line (this was before cellphones).
I would feel guilty about making plans with my friends when it was Mom's or Dad's night. I always felt more at home in the house I grew up in, which was my dad’s. It's hard to make the second house really feel like home after divorce.
There are some perks too, though. Two houses means two sets of closets, two bedrooms to decorate, two Christmas mornings, two different refrigerators! I always had another home to escape to if I got in a fight with a parent or a sibling and needed to get away. I got more one-on-one time with each parent than the typical teenager with married parents gets. I got two sets of vacations, two "how was your day?" conversations.
My sister and I also developed two different sets of traditions, different things we would routinely do with each parent. While it can at times be double the stress and strife, it can also be double the good times, too. You learn to work with what you've got.
Here are some tips I’d give to divorced parents to make it easier on kids going back to school:
1. Work something out with transportation, whether it is a carpool or a bus route, and really communicate to make sure there is no confusion as to where your child will be picked up/delivered and by whom on any given day.
2. Make sure that the school sends all flyers/mail to both of your mailing addresses. You do not want to risk missing something because you depended on the other parent to tell you.
3. Don't be upset if your children show a preference for one house over the other. Do your best to make the new home as comfortable as possible, but don't expect that your children will love each home equally. This is unlikely, and it does not mean that they don't still love each parent equally.
4. Parents, do not bribe your kids. I have seen this before. You want them to come to your house because they want to see you; you don't need to lure them there with fancy video games and lax house rules. It feels desperate, not strong. Kids need to have structure to do homework.
5. Set up places where kids can do their homework privately. Also, if they need to call the other parent, don’t make them feel guilty. They do need privacy.
6. Whatever the budget, please don’t tell them it’s because of the other parent that the kids can’t get a dress or school supplies. Work it out among yourselves. No bad-mouthing, please. Too much stress.
7. Kids, humor your parents. They have to try just a little harder than the married parents do. Thank them once in a while.
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