Divorce is hard for spouses, but it is difficult for children as well. There is no way to avoid the pain that divorce can bring to a family that is splitting. However, there are some aspects of separation for children to look forward to and a few things that parents can do to ease the emotional toll that children endure, regardless of their age.
Preparing to Move
Communicate and explain the move. Open and honest conversations are needed, explaining that the children will still be just as loved by both parents even though they won’t be spending as much time with them together. Make it clear which days they will be with which parent so they can begin adjusting their schedules as they move between houses (ie homework, activities, time with friends, etc).
If possible, locate new housing that is still close to the other parent. If the children are school age, it makes life much easier if they can ride the same bus or be in the same carpool group for transportation to school. This allows children to keep the same neighborhood friends and to be able to ride their bikes or walk from home to home.
Let children help with moving decisions. If there are housing choices to make and if the children are old enough, a parent might include them in on the decision as to which new house or apartment is the better option. Their comfort and access to amenities (playgrounds, community centers, transportation for older children, etc) is just as important as yours.
Involve your children in setting up their new rooms. Allow your child to participate in picking out new bedroom furniture, bedding, paint color for the walls, and other décor. Spend time explaining to the child that he or she will have this new place where he or she can be comfortable. If possible, divide some of the toys and books from the other home. Spend time helping the child pack and unpack.
During the Move
Prepare for the stress of moving. Moving is always a tiring and anxious time. If possible, have your child stay with a relative or friend until the home is in order. Having everything unpacked and in its proper place can take some time. Make it a priority to have the child’s room ready first so they can come to visit sooner rather than later.
Provide all of the essentials. In the new home, be sure to have basics for the child: a toothbrush, pajamas, play clothes, shoes, and a jacket. If possible, reduce the amount of items any children must pack every other week or weekend. This can help soothe the transition from house to house. Also, be sure to stock your child’s favorite foods and snacks. You want your child to feel at home, secure, welcomed, and loved.
Provide a calendar to keep you and your children informed. Children need to be reassured during the separation and divorce process that both parents still love them and will be there for them. A helpful tool is to post a calendar of when the child will be with mom and dad. Color coding can be a huge help. Mom days are red; dad days are blue. Extracurriculars can be listed as well, reminding the parents of events that they can attend even if it is not their day or week. There are many useful apps available for parents for this purpose, but it is optimal if there is a visual for the children to see. It is also important to establish a schedule in the new home; include routine basics on your calendar, such as “dinner at 6”, “bedtime at 9”, or “wake up at 7”. Parenting experts can substantiate that children feel more comfortable with stability and routine, especially when adjusting to a new environment.
Allow your child to communicate with the other parent while at your home. Especially if your children spend more time with you than their other parent, allowing communication can be essential to them adjusting to the new changes. Establish a set time for quick conversations or face times. Avoid bad mouthing or extensive questioning about the other parent. It really is in a child’s best interest to avoid pushing them to take a side, and ultimately, their relationship with their other parent is unrelated to yours.
We hope these suggestions can assist your children through this transition and help them feel at home in their new home. For more in depth or specific questions, please attend one of our webinars or visit our forum to ask an attorney questions directly.