Divorce can cause many changes to a child’s life. One of the most disruptive changes can be the switch from having one home to having two homes. Regardless of the date your divorce was finalized, the date you and the other parent began living apart is likely when your divorce became real to your child.
Kids often struggle with change. However, there are ways you and your child’s other parent can help him or her feel more comfortable in both homes.
Starting fresh doesn’t mean starting from scratch
If you are the parent who moved out of the family home, you may be enjoying the opportunity to start fresh. However, being in an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar possessions might not feel like home to your child.
If possible, consider bringing some items from the family home into your new space. When purchasing new items, consider asking your child to help you pick them out.
If you are staying in the family home, you might be craving a fresh look to match your new post-divorce situation. However, it can be helpful to avoid making too many changes right away. Your child may need some time to adjust to all the other changes in his or her life, and the comfort of a familiar home can help with that adjustment.
Get your household organized
For a child, switching between two homes can feel scary or overwhelming partially because it feels unpredictable. This can be especially true if your child is not sure what to expect. You may not be able to control what happens in the other parent’s home. However, you can control what happens in yours, and a little organization can help your custody arrangement feel more predictable to your child.
For example, you may consider writing a packing plan for your child. Each parent can keep certain items like toothbrushes and pajamas at their house, but sentimental items, like a special stuffed animal or blanket, may need to travel between homes. Having a packing list can help ensure the right items get packed every time.
Another organizational item that may benefit your child is a color-coded calendar. New custody schedules can feel unpredictable to everyone, including your child. Color-coding the schedule can help your child visualize the pattern. Posting this calendar someplace accessible can help reassure your child when he or she is missing the other parent.
Make routines for switch days
You may need to throw your child’s old routines out the window after your divorce. Replacing old routines with new ones can help your whole family find a rhythm in post-divorce life.
Switch days can be especially stressful for kids. Saying goodbye to one parent can be emotional, even if they are excited to see the other parent. The mix of emotions can make pick ups or drop offs even worse.
Creating a routine for these transitions can help smooth the turbulence. Consider making it a routine to have the parent who already has the child drop him or her off with the other parent at the appropriate time. This can be less disruptive than having a parent pick the child up and risk interrupting a special moment.
You may also consider creating a routine for arrivals. When your child arrives at your home, try to allow him or her time to adjust to your home. Consider scheduling only relaxing activities during this time. Some examples may include cooking a meal, reading a book, working on a craft or playing a game.
Divorce can involve a variety of changes that your child must cope with. One of those changes can be the transition from one home to two homes. You may not be able to take away all your child’s troubles, but there are many ways you can help your child adapt. Keeping some familiar items in your home, creating organizational tools and developing routines can go a long way towards helping your child feel more comfortable in both homes.