How to Pick up an Upset Child from Moms (or Dads)


Another year has passed and you would think getting through the holidays would just get that much easier. Unfortunately it isn’t always like that. Every where you turn families are preparing the way for a grand celebration. Even with the fun at hand there seems to be a bit of tension and stress around holiday season. For me it is the shuttling of Madalyn between mom and dads’ house that really gets to me.

Sometimes it is really hard because I would show up to the door to pick her up and she would kick and scream all the way to the car and home. Of course she was just having too much fun to leave. There is much to this co-parenting thing and if you have a good relationship with your ex then it makes things a lot easier. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury at this point however, I have not let it stop me from doing the best I can.

1. Getting beyond the kicking and screaming – I have learned that children don’t like surprises. I am not talking about surprising them with a trip to Dairy Queen I am talking about a sudden change in activity. The sooner I can help prepare Madalyn for the change the better things have gone. For example; when I know that I will be picking her up or her mom is going to pick her up I prepare her a few days in advance and remind her until that time comes, “Daddy is picking you up tomorrow at four so be ready.” I also reinforce that throwing a fit is not okay. Since I have been doing this she listens really well and understands. Sometimes she is sad and says so and I completely understand but it passes and she soon finds her happy place again.

2. Be prepared for the worst – no parent likes to have to haul their kid to the car kicking and screaming but the sad truth is it happens. When I am prepared for the possibility I am able to react in a healthy way. There were times that I would snap at Madalyn and would always regret it later. Preparing for the worst has 2 parts; 1) I mentally prepare for it and remind myself that it is not personal – she is only four. 2) I prepare for her by bringing a nice little snack and her favorite stuffed Dora. It is hard for her to keep crying when she is popping jelly beans in her mouth and Dora is trying to tickle her.

3. Have an agenda – so what now… I am going over to daddy’s house to do what? I like to have a plan in motion whether we are going to stop by a family members for dinner, play some Chutes and Ladders, head off to the park, or maybe I have a special movie in mind. By sharing with Madalyn what I have in mind helps put her at ease. As she thinks about it she becomes less stressed about leaving her mom’s.

This has worked for me in the past and it can be used for other situations but I have found that the holidays are particularly more difficult and stressful for all involved.