Every parent has at least a handful of stories about their children losing or leaving behind a treasured item. Sometimes it was something valuable like a laptop in their school bag, and sometimes it was a stuffed bear. Regardless of the value of the item, this can be a five-alarm emergency where the child requests the entire world to stop what it is doing to track down this item and return it to them unharmed.
There can be smaller versions of these events when the children are shuttled back and forth between co-parent’s homes and other places. There may also be an issue where the other parent does not reliably collect all items or remember where the child left them in their home when it is time to go or switch residences.
The constant loss and (ideally) recovery of these belongings can add a lot of stress to the transfers between homes. That stress can then lead to other problematic behavior in the children or increase the tension between co-parents, especially if it is something crucial like medication. Perhaps the parents are both doing their level-headed best, and things are still getting lost.
Tips for keeping track
Here are a few common-sense tips that can ideally create a calmer home life:
- Think ahead: It is best to think about where the child left her school backpack on Friday before Sunday night homework or a panicked Monday morning.
- Think before reacting: Getting angry at a 12-year-old for leaving their homework at dad’s can quickly lead to something along the lines of, “It’s not my fault you got divorced.” Patient problem-solving sets a better tone, perhaps leading to a group effort where the other parent locates the item and drops it off.
- Talk to the child about it: Avoid lecturing in the moment. Instead, wait until a time when it can be discussed without tears. Perhaps a game plan can be implemented, such as “Billy’s Backpack Checklist.”
- Buy doubles: It may not be realistic to do this for big-ticket items, but it may make sense to have two copies of favorite games, snow boots or a special doll. It can be a necessity if the child regularly takes medication.
This is not their problem
Kids are hopefully busy being kids even when their parents are divorced. It is up to the parents to keep a running list of cherished objects in their child’s life, particularly when the kids are young, and try to ensure that those items travel with the child or stay safe. With a little bit of vigilance, the parents can avoid tragic losses or traumatic recoveries, thus making their home life less stressful for everyone.