Divorce is painful for everyone in the family, but the first priority for parents is to help children get through it. One of the most immediate challenges is helping them adjust to living between two homes. They will likely think of one home as their primary residence, but you will also want them to feel comfortable and secure in the other household. While becoming accustomed to living in two places may be difficult for them at first, your love and understanding will calm their fears and anxiety. Here are five tips to help your children settle into this new chapter in their lives.
1. Help children prepare
Children should have time to become used to the idea of going to the home of their other parent. Remind the kids a couple of days ahead that they will be making this trip. You can start the process by helping them pack. Encourage them to take favorite things, like a couple of special toys or the photos they are used to having on their nightstand.
2. Make sure they have spaces of their own
Children should have their own rooms in the new household if possible, or at least space they can call their own. Examples of private space include a closet, a dresser, drawers, shelves, bins, anywhere you can carve out places children can use to put their things. Over time, there will be a buildup of clothing, books, toys and other items that will remain in the new household-and fewer items that will need to be carried back and forth.
3. Establish household rules
Consistency is important to children; it is something that makes their lives run more smoothly. The rules parents set down should be similar in both homes. Establish a time to do homework, a time for dinner and a time for going to bed. Follow the same kinds of disciplinary action in both households. If one parent has punished a child for an infraction by suspending TV privileges, the other parent should continue the restriction if it is still in force when he or she visits.
4. Cordial picking up and dropping off
Parents can set a good example for their children in the way they handle the picking up and dropping off duties. Be on time, be polite and keep a positive attitude. Be sure to follow the visitation schedule, even if a child is not feeling well. Keeping to the schedule shows that both parents are capable of caring for their children.
5. Acknowledge the need for quiet time
The actual transition time may be hard for children. Keep in mind that they may need some quiet time just before they leave one home and after they arrive at the other, especially when the whole process is new to them. Plan to have some down time together. Sharing a favorite meal or engaging in a quiet activity can help children adjust.
Seeking help when you need it
Divorce brings new responsibilities and experiences, and sometimes it is difficult to know which way to turn. If you are seeking solutions to help children adjust to your divorce, an attorney experienced with family law can assist with parent-time arrangements and other matters to make the path forward easier for you and yours.