Co-parenting: Two Houses Means Bringing Kids’ Stuff Back and Forth


By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Try to imagine what it would be like as a kid, having all your things, your “stuff” (your clothing, books, paperwork, jewelry, accessories, mementos, body products, athletic equipment, etc.) at two houses, and constantly having to remember to bring certain things back and forth from one house to another. That’s how children of divorce feel, especially when they start getting older. So, I want to offer some co-parenting advice on this issue.

I’ll never forget, several years ago,  I took my then 11 year-old son to the Bulls game. He was beyond excited for weeks, and looking forward to a fun filled, exciting night. But, something happened right before we were leaving that really upset him. His Richard Hamilton jersey was at dad’s house. Ugh! He was almost in tears, so disappointed that he couldn’t wear his favorite player’s jersey, because when he realized he didn’t have it, there wasn’t enough time to go over to his dad’s and get it.

I completely blamed myself for not thinking of the jersey sooner, because I could have driven over to my ex-husband’s house  (which took 7 minutes) and gotten it earlier in the day. At any rate, it wasn’t the end of the world, and my son’s disappointment only lasted a few minutes. However, it was just another example of how difficult it is for kids when their stuff is going back and forth between their divorced parents’ homes, and how important this aspect of co-parenting is.

Here are three co-parenting suggestions that might make things easier:

1. Think ahead:

Had I had the common sense to think about the jersey earlier in the day, my son could have worn it to the game. So, try to make it a habit to remember what activities your kids have and plan accordingly, making sure they have everything they need. I know it’s not easy, especially if you are a working parent.

Did your daughter have a soccer game last week and did she go straight to dad’s? If so, better make sure she has her uniform and shoes before the next game. Even something as simple as snow boots. If you hear the forecast and you know snow is coming, make sure to grab the snow gear and get it home, so you’re not sending your child to school unprepared. It’s hard, but if you consciously plan ahead in this co-parenting aspect, there won’t be as many forgotten items.


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2. Consider your reaction to things

How many times have you heard, “Mom, I left my library book at dad’s?” or “My homework is at dad’s house.” Kids will get teary eyed or angry because they are frustrated. I’m sure they are thinking, “If my stupid parents wouldn’t have gotten divorced, I wouldn’t have to deal with this.”



So, next time they forget something, don’t make them feel like it’s their fault. Because honestly, it’s YOUR fault for getting divorced. Not trying to be a jerk, and not judging you for getting divorced, just giving you the cold, hard truth. Don’t give your children the burden of having to remember everything. If they forget stuff, control your gut reaction to scream in frustration. Instead, take a deep breath and just say, “Okay, no problem.  Don’t worry about it, Sweetie. We’ll drive over there and get it.” And if you live too far away, come up with another solution. Figure it out! Do not let your kids see that you are upset, because they will then think it’s their fault. And it’s not!!


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3.Talk to your kids:

Whenever your kids get frustrated or upset that something they want or need is at their mom’s or dad’s house, (which by the way, if it isn’t urgent, I’m not recommending that you drive over there every time your child wants something) but when you sense that they are bummed about the fact that their stuff is in two places, talk to them.


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Do two things. First, validate their feelings and secondly, reassure them that you are sorry it has to be this way. Example: “Mom, I really want my Chutes and Ladders game. I wish I could play that right now but it’s at dad’s.” Answer: “I completely understand that it’s frustrating and that you wish all your stuff could be at one place. I’m sure that’s hard. I’m truly sorry it has to be this way, but this is the way it is. Let’s go find another game to play.”

In closing, I want to bring up one more important thing. Picture this: you just bought your child a really expensive toy that he or she wanted. When the child goes to their dad’s house, they take the toy over there and you never see it again. Ouch. That’s not easy. But, it’s okay! You bought if for your child, so it’s theirs. Once, my son asked me, “Mom, can I wear my Drew Brees jersey to dad’s?” I wanted to cry because I felt so badly that he even felt like he had to ask! “Of course you can! It’s YOUR jersey!” I replied.


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Remember that your kids “stuff” is YOUR burden, never your child’s. They are doing the best they can. It’s hard to be a kid, and it’s really hard to be a kid of divorce. The good news is, with good co-parenting, and a friendly nature between two parents, kids will thrive.

Like this article? Check out “20 Things I Wish I could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    17 Responses to “Co-parenting: Two Houses Means Bringing Kids’ Stuff Back and Forth”

    1. Julie Schechter

      Today , here in Baltimore , it was a beautiful summer-weather day, and my 5 year old spent it running around in her furry winter boots. I dropped off my 8 year old at the synagogue to be with his dad. I would have been there with my daughter too but instead , I spent the whole entire morning searching for her shoes. First in my house , then in his house , which is a 10 minute walk away. She was too embarrassed to show up in public with boots on. No shoes to be found anywhere! At 2pm dad showed up with bro. to collect daughter in boots. ……Then at 9pm I klunk down to my email and notice 2 messages…… Your article and dad’s, that he found the shoes. Jackie…you are so on target!

    2. Staci

      You hit the nail on the head. Good post! Not their fault and a big bummer for them……one other tip, leave some extra time each day there is a transition between homes for the kids. Check and double check with them to make sure they have what they need/want, and be prepared to go back sometimes. Teach them to be responsible and resourceful for their belongings, but don’t get angry with them if they forget something.

    3. Sally

      Ugh. This has got to be the worst advice I ever read. It is absolutely the wrong thing to do, to go to the other parents house to get stuff. Kids need to feel comfortable at both homes. That means you shell out the extra cash to buy a second set of sports equipment and jersey. That way you establish a stable environment at each home and the kid doesn’t have to remember to bring anything. They also learn they have two homes…diffrent, but two homes…not two places with stuff missing at each.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        A lot of families don’t have the money to buy “two of everything.” that’s just reality. Plus, a home isn’t defined by what is in it. A home means love and warmth and good times together. Additionally, there are certain things kids forget that you just can’t run out and buy–like a sports jersey that was ordered online and not available anymore.

        • Ronnie

          Jackie what if you kids are teenagers and they are constantly coming over because they live 7 minutes away and it is convenient for them? In my opinion, i think my step kids are old enough to realize what they need for the next couple of days. I don’t want to be catering to them, it’s just enabling them. Am I just mean? I really don’t know. I feel like they constantly need something everyday! and their dad and me need our privacy with each other. I don’t know how to bring it up to my husband. He thinks that at 15 yrs and 12yrs they are still kids who need their things to be brought to them when they forget them. Is this true?

          • Jackie Pilossoph

            I personally have lived this and I say that yes, while they are old enough to remember what to bring, occassionally they forget stuff. It’s frustrating, but I always tell myself, ‘They didn’t ask for this.’ Kids have enough on their minds, let alone having to remember to pack and live at two houses. It’s unfair. I feel for them. So, if they forget something once in awhile, I’m totally OK with that and I never give them a hard time about it. Also, every kid is different. Some kids are really organized, others have to have everything done for them.

    4. Tara

      I googled this topic in hopes to find a solution to my situation with my ex. When he or his patents buy or daughters something he won’t allow them to bring it to my house. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dollar store toy or something expensive. My daughter turned four last week. His parents bought her a princess bike. She woke up the day after upset because daddy took it to his house. She called him and asked can I please play with my birthday presents at mommy house and he said she can play with them when she’s comes to his house. I find this completely selfish of him. I tried to explain they are her toys and he should not make choose like that. He thinks I’m totally wrong. Let me add that he has a lot of toys at his house and it’s not a case of keeping toys because there’s a lack. I tried the approach to duplicate things at both homes after he refused to let her bring home a coloring book. After searching three stores with no luck I had to tell her I couldn’t find one and she was heartbroken. This problem has now caused her to become sneaking. She told me that she was going to hide her book in her bag and to not tell daddy. The few times he has given into her request he puts a huge guilt trip in her. Making her promise to bring it back the next day. This makes me so sad. I think a child should not have to stress over things like this. I do not know what to do. So my question is, how do you handle a parent who refuses to transport a child’s belongings?

    5. Renee

      I’m with Sally on this. I grew up with divorced parents and if I forgot something at the other parents house I went without it until my next time with that parent. It’s called teaching your kids to be accountable and responsible for their own thing so they can carry that on with them as an adult. Stop catering to your kids every need and whiny request!! That’s what makes them grow up to be irresponsible, bratty, impatient adult who don’t get what it means to have accountability, responsibility or patience for anything.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I could not disagree more. Growing up as a child of parents who stayed married, I never had to worry about now having my team jersey or tennis shoes because I forgot them at one of my parent’s homes. I am grown up and now consider myself to be responsible, not bratty and patient. I am also responsible and accountable. I don’t think that kids of divorce should have to become responsible at age 5 because their parents decided to split up. It has to be a combination of parents being understanding and kids being as accountable as they can possibly be–given that they are kids.

    6. Dennis

      You are correct…I might add that if the child constantly brings his/her things from one parents to the other and NEVER brings anything back-it could be a problem. I agree it is for the child-and they shouldn’t bear the conflict of the parents feelings….but I do think if everything leaves one parents and remains at the other parents for years on end-it’s a problem. Then the child asks for more things with the parent that they are always taking their things from. Been there-DOING that now….for 8 years. It’s hard on the child and all we can do is use our best judgement. When we allowed him/her to bring things back and forth…they never came back. I’m talking about nice, expensive things that were purchased for us to watch him/her enjoy.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I do understand that. It is very frustrating. Maybe talk to your child and tell him/her to bring a certain toy back to your place so that the two of you can play it together. I see nothing wrong with that.

    7. DDK

      Does anyone have any insight regarding a parent who will not allow items from the other parents house into their house? My girls are very much attached to their dolls and pack them (and accessories) every week to bring with them to their fathers house, and back. Their “collection” consists of items from each household, although they have resorted to sneaking items out of his house as he does not allow them to bring “his toys” to my house. Suddenly this week when he came to pick up the children, he made them leave their items at my house and told them they were not allowed to bring them to his house. I am having trouble wrapping my mind around this. Sure, I don’t necessarily want to schlep dolls, in addition to school bags, etc but i feel that the dolls are theirs and should not have to do without them as a consequence of us living apart.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        Ugh, this is just disgusting. I don’t understand these people! You are not alone. I hear this from so many separated and divorced people. Kids’ stuff should be kids’ stuff, and they should be allowed to take it to either house. It is very petty and will have an effect on the kids. I feel for you. But you have no control over what your ex does. So, just keep letting your kids take anything they want from your house to his. Let him be the petty one. they will see it someday. Best of luck. Very hard situation.

    8. Jim

      Jackie – thanks for your insight, and helping me see that I’m not the only parent dealing with an ex who is extremely petty in not allowing our daughter’s things to be brought/left at my house. I’m wondering if you are aware of any professional research which reinforces what all of us seem to feel — that kid’s stuff should be “their” stuff, and they shouldn’t be burdened/punished because they are between two houses? Thanks!

    9. Ajl

      Everyone hi. I know this is an old post. But I’m dealing w this now. How about a quick phone call or email to your child or ex if it’s no too complicated, and remind them. Sammy you come back to me Tues thru Thurs. make sure you put a, b and c in your bag or by the door. I’m an adult that grew up with a very hostile tense situation for many years with my divorced parents. NEVER disallow anything that is your child’s clothing, gift, sports equipment, etc to NOT go to your ex’s. If you do that, you a selfish uneducated jerk. That said, if nothing ever comes back, stop buying your kids things and teach them responsibility. You don’t Rememeber it, you won’t get another. Just make a call shoot a text send a two second reminder email. If your ex is hoarding your things for your kid – have a talk with your kids about maybe not bringing things that you want at mommy’s or something, but don’t be angry or freak. What’s the result of that?! Nothing good.

    10. Shonna

      I am actually working with my counselor, on this one. I continue to make sure my kids’ needs are met (they have coats, when it’s cold, sports equip, when on a team, etc.). I don’t want to tell them they’re not allowed to bring things over to their dad’s house, but he almost never buys them clothing, shoes, etc.

      But, on several occasions, I’ll notice they’re sent back to my house with worn down shoes (causing foot or back aches), holy or outgrown clothing, no sweaters or coats, when needed. When I ask if they remember where an item might be (which I purchased, for them), or when they last used it, they’ll tell me that their dad told them to bring it to his house and leave it there.

      If their dad called me and said, “Hey, it’s been super busy at work and I haven’t had a chance to pick up a spare sweater,” or, “I completely forgot to bring their sneakers back…” – I would be very understanding.

      Because of this, and because I don’t want my kids to bear the burden of whether or not something stays at mom’s or dad’s house, sometimes I’ll even get duplicates. Of course, this gets very expensive. Even still, I find out, much later, that he told them to bring something over and leave it with him. When I ask if he could send an item back, he’ll nonchalantly say, “Oh, yeah. I did see that over here…” Or, he’ll say it isnt there (because he sent it to his relative’s house, so the kids can use it, there).

      I know I could (and do) keep every receipt, but really don’t want to get into a whole legal battle of he said, she said. Sigh. Any thoughts from understanding parents?

      One thing I thought of was a “stamp” or permanent marker for the tag as a simple way to “keep track,” without any doubt, that it’s something I purchased… I don’t mind if they bring things to their dad’s, as long as they have what they need at my house. I cant tell you how many times I’ve *just* bought a new pack of socks, a new pair of shoes, etc, and they’re asking for me to take them shopping for that same item, a week or two later.

    11. Lee

      I just read the response where someone said her and her husband need their privacy and his kids stop by because it’s 7 minutes away and they “can”. Um…wtf. My oldest son has brought his Xbox his grandmother (my mom) bought and his $250 LAX helmet to his dads for his room there now that he has graduated high school. His father makes him pay for everything. There’s no winning in divorce. It’s a constant crap sandwich. You just pretty much eat it.


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