What Happens to The Child of Divorce During the “Switching Hour”?



Many have coined the time when children go from one home to another the “switching hour”. Evon Flesberg was the first expert to write about the switching hour in her book, “The Switching Hour, Kids of Divorce Say Good-Bye Again”[1].

I’ve watched children for years deal with this issue of switching back and forth between homes. Evon brings up an interesting point when she says, “Waiting is what the children of the switching hour do.” For many kids waiting is hard. The waiting time is precious time that the kids could be playing with their friends, siblings or doing something other than sitting and waiting.

Evon says, “They wait to see the parent that they are not with, they wait to see siblings they’ve missed, they wait to see friends they’ve left, they wait to be citizen of one world and they wait to be in charge of deciding when they’ll visit their parents.”

Where they wait

  • Restaurants
  • Parked cars
  • Airports
  • At the grandparents
  • School
  • Daycare
  • Supervised visitation
  • Transition sites

One child’s story

When I had my childcare in Oklahoma we were often the switching place. On Friday morning suitcases, backpacks, diaper bags and other paraphernalia would be dropped off when the kids were left. Come Monday morning all that stuff would reappear in our entryway when the kids were dropped off for the day.

I had one child whose mom took off from work early every other Friday. She would rush in to pick up her child so she could drive him two hours to the half way point between Broken Arrow and Oklahoma City. The half way point was the McDonalds on the turnpike. Usually one of the parents had to wait for the other parent if there was heavy traffic or an accident on the turnpike. It was not unusual for this mom to wait an hour for the dad to show up.

Of course there was the two-hour car ride with the dad to his home on the other side of Oklahoma City. Anywhere from four to five hours was the switching time for this young elementary age child. And then the whole thing would be repeated in two weeks.

Mom was stressed all the time. The child was stressed. On many Fridays he would walk in the door after school and just slump down in a chair. He would share, “I really like seeing my dad but I hate that long car ride. We don’t get to dads until late and I’m tired and hungry and he gets upset if I tell him I have to do my homework but when am I supposed to do my school work? I try to do it in the car but it gets dark and I can’t see. And then there is that long ride back again on Sunday. My whole weekend is spent riding in a car!”

A way of life

For many children of divorce, the switching hour isn’t an hour it is a way of life.

Evon goes onto state in her book, “Preparation for shuttling between parents­–the many switching hour missions –will require no less attention than the space missions themselves. The pressures of launching and re-entry may feel as treacherous on the ground as they are in space travel.”

What can you do?

If you are a children’s pastor or church volunteer and the child has to travel a distance there are several ways you can make the transition time a happier experience.

  • Are there age appropriate games you could send with the child?
  • Are there books that the child could borrow to read or DVDs that could be played in the car?
  • How about the bible study lesson the child will be missing when at the other parent’s home?
  • Could it be sent with the child so he or she won’t feel so left out all the time.
  • Always remember to pray with and for the child before the switching hour.
What can  you do to make the switching hour better for children of divorce?

[1] “The Switching Hour, Kids of Divorce Say Good-Bye Again” by Evon O. Flesberg (Abingdon Press)


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4 thoughts on “What Happens to The Child of Divorce During the “Switching Hour”?

  1. Having a backpack or travel bag prepared and at hand allows the child (age appropriate) to choose items of comfort to help occupy transition time. IPad, iPod, tablet etc. and recharger allow the child to enhance their traveling environment. Still the best (and highly recommended) is to develop conversational skills between parent and child.

    • Jack as always you right on target. Thanks for the great suggestions. I agree about the conversational skills and we might add continual relationship building.

  2. I agree with Jackson. Sitting in a car for hours with a child on an screen seems to be no different than them in the trunk. Parents need to learn to do a better job of building conversation with their child.

    Ask them questions about their activities, school, what they are learning, their friends, hopes and dreams, what they are interested in, what they would like to learn how to do, etc. Keep conversation positive and do a lot of encouraging.

    Parents and kids have and are living through a family crisis, but every conversation doesn’t have to be about that and silence doesn’t do a thing for relationships.

    Talk, but talk less than your child. Listen for those two hours, if need be, but really HEAR them. Okay, I’m done….

  3. Pingback: DC4K » How Daylight Savings Time will affect kids of divorce more than it will affect you

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