There’s no doubt that divorce can be hard on everyone in a family – especially young children who may have trouble adjusting to their new family structure. In addition to mourning their family as they knew it, children must also often adjust to living in two separate homes where a different set of rules, expectations and standards may apply.
In an effort to maintain as much consistency and stability as possible, divorcing parents would be wise to communicate about how to meet their children’s needs. Following these tips can help make the transition easier for everyone.
Create a familiar space
You can help your children adjust to divorce-related transitions by making a new space comfortable and familiar. If your child has a favorite lamp, nightlight or blanket, pick up another one to keep in both parents’ home. Anytime your child leaves to stay with your ex, have a “to-go” bag that includes comfort items. Even having duplicates of items like cups, plates and towels in both homes can provide a child with a sense of security. Work with your ex to design a space that feels familiar and safe for your child.
Ask for your child’s opinion
While very young children may have a hard time articulating what they want or how they are feeling, they can still make simple decisions and have a say in what their space looks like. Allowing a child to pick out new bedding or decorations for his or her bedroom can go a long way to helping a child feel included and encourage feelings of excitement rather than dread.
Stay consistent on rules, schedules and discipline
It’s hard if you are not the custodial parent and don’t get to spend as much time with your children. Consequently, you may be tempted to spoil your children and let them do whatever they want. However, attempting to always be the fun parent can end up being harmful to both your children and your relationship with them. Children need and do better overall when they have consistency and stability. It’s important, therefore, to communicate with your ex and to ensure that you are both on the same page with regard to your children’s schedule, discipline and rules.
Coordinate pickups and drop-offs
If you pick up your children from your ex, they may start to view you as the bad guy who is always taking them away from mom or dad. To avoid these types of negative associations, the parent who has physical custody should always drop the children off at the other parent’s home. Additionally, as you transport your children from one home to the other, do not project your own feelings onto them by telling them that you are sad they are leaving or that you will miss them. Let them be excited about seeing their mom or dad without feeling guilty about leaving you behind.
After a separation or divorce, setting up a parenting plan across two homes can be challenging. However, the struggle can be minimized, if both parents commit to communicating and cooperating throughout the entire process.