Although we all want to give our kids lots of sugar and caffeine and then send them off to the other parent, this is not the way to make visits easier. There are many things that can make these transition periods easier. Here are a few of my tips.
1) Kids often have a fear of what they are missing. This can be eliminated by giving them and yourself a photo journal kit. This should include a camera, notebook, letters, brochures of interesting things. That way when they are visiting the other parent they can share their fun experiences with you and come back to see that although they may have missed a few things at your house, they were thought of at every event. You may want to even have a teddy bear with their name on it that you take to all events that they are not with you. That will allow the child to know you are thinking about them.
2) Cell phones for kids who are older. Allowing them to have a prepaid cell phone from you will help make the transition easier between houses. They will know that they can always talk to you if they ever want to. This does not mean that limits should not be set, phones should not be used to disturb the parent time of the other parent, bedtimes of the children, or any special events.
3) Pack a back with things from home; their favorite stuffed animal, blankets, pictures, MP3 player with music, letters from home, etc. This will help them feel more secure during the transition.
4) Care packages during visits often let them know you are thinking about them and offer a positive thing for all people involved. Talk with your ex as to what they will allow or not allow in their home. Sending some games, candy, stationary, envelopes, stamps, money for activities, crafts, etc does not have to be expensive. Many of these can be homemade, but will be appreciated by all.
5) Make sure if they are traveling long distance to give them a standard travel kit. This should include age appropriate books, music players, stickers, paper, pens, crayons, and a snack and drink that may be purchased at the airport so the child will not arrive hungry or thirsty will make plane rides easier.
6) Travel documents should be sent with the child, identification, parents name, parents numbers, addresses, medical information and insurance cards, etc. Don't withhold this information simply to hurt the other parent.
7) Make a big deal of the welcome home. Hang banners, balloons, and have a special meal planned. This helps the child to know that they were missed and you do want them back.
8) Finally ignore all the "at my other house I am allowed to..." Children know how to play one person against another. They are smart. They will use that statement in an effort to get away with something or to get something they want. Every time you buy into this, you add fuel to the fire and make it harder for the kids to readjust. Consistency during your parent time is the best way to keep your children happy. The reason is simple, these kids know what to expect. They will try to test the boundaries, but they are happy to stay inside those boundaries because they know they are loved.