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Divorcing parents must help children adjust to two homes

When you and your spouse are facing divorce, one of your priorities will be to make the transition to new lifestyles as smooth as possible, especially for the children involved. The idea of moving back and forth between two homes may be a difficult prospect for them, but good planning will help them adjust and positive steps will ensure they continue to feel loved, wanted and safe.

Starting a new chapter

It is important to talk to your children as early as possible in the divorce process, explaining that while some things are going to change, some will remain the same. Your children will now spend time not only in the home they know well, in a neighborhood where they may have grown up, but also in a new home, which is probably located in a different area of town. They will want to have familiar things around them in the new house, such as favorite toys and clothes. Collecting new personal items that they can keep there will also be important, however. Take your children on a shopping trip and let them choose a few new toys, DVDs and clothing items, things they can keep at the new house so they will not have to stuff a suitcase every time they go from one residence to another.

Private spaces

Your children should have space in each home that they can call their own. Bedrooms come to mind as private spaces, but they should also have their own closets, drawers and shelves. In addition, it is important to give the children time to themselves to unwind and settle in when they first arrive at the home of one parent or the other. Let them set the tone for quiet time to follow or for engaging in activities.

Keep communicating

When the children are first getting used to living between two homes, they may be quieter and less inclined to communicate and tell you what they are feeling. Try not to ask too many questions about their visit with the other parent. In time, they may loosen up and share their thoughts. Encourage them to call or email Dad or Mom at the other house when they wish to do so.

Set some rules

A divorcing couple should consider establishing a few rules that children will be expected to follow in both homes. You can post them on the fridge or write them on a whiteboard for everyone to see. An example might be to do homework within the first hour after school so that evenings can be reserved for family time. Another might be that children should not approach one parent for permission to do something when the other parent has already said no.

Seek advice

If you are facing divorce, you undoubtedly have many questions about helping children adjust to this new and often upsetting chapter in their lives. Friends or relatives who have already experienced this kind of situation may be able to offer tips. For additional advice and support, you may also want to speak with an attorney who specializes in family law.