Each year, more than 1 million American children experience their parents’ divorce. Shared custody arrangements usually mean children will divide their time between households. A significant life change, like divorce, is naturally stressful for children. But parents can minimize the traumatic impact of divorce by creating smooth transitions between homes.
This article looks at five ideas for parents to help children transition between homes after a divorce.
1. Consistency in Your Own Home is Most Important
It’s helpful if both parents agree on important, foundational rules and expectations for the children. If bedtime at Dad’s house is 8:30, but the kids stay up until 11:00 at Mom’s, children will receive contradictory messages. Additionally, children may have trouble understanding why sleep is important at Dad’s house but not important at Mom’s. Some amount of consistency between homes can be helpful but it’s not always possible. If expectations do differ in your co-parent’s home, your children can adjust. What is most important is that rules and expectations in your own home are consistent.
2. Make Each House Feel Like Home
Before the divorce, your children had just one family home. But because they’ll now be splitting their time between two households, it’s vital that both homes feel comfortable and welcoming, in their own way. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
Make sure your kids have an enjoyable way to cart their belongings between houses. Whether it’s a duffle bag with their favorite sports team logo or a personalized suitcase with their initials, a fun bag can make moving between homes feel less stressful. Unpack suitcases or duffle bags and settle them in each time they arrive. Not doing so might make them feel like visitors in your home.
Stock the kids’ bathroom in both homes with their favorite toiletries. Kids shouldn’t need to cart their shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush or toothpaste back and forth between homes. These items can be purchased by both households and kept in place. Then, when the kids arrive, they won’t feel like they’re traveling–they’ll feel like they are home.
Allow kids to decorate their bedrooms in each home. Let them choose the theme, colors, wall decor, and bedding. With their own unique space carved out in both homes, kids will feel more comfortable spending time between two homes.
3. Stick to the Parenting Schedule
Children thrive on predictability. So, it’s important to keep schedules as consistent as possible.
If your child goes to the other parent’s home every other weekend, try not to change the schedule unless you have a good reason. And give your child plenty of warning if the schedule will need to change. It can feel very jarring for children when schedules change abruptly. We heard from one of our families that they as parents give each other first right of refusal when something comes up and they need someone to care for the children should they need a “babysitter” during their parenting time. Perhaps a worthwhile idea to implement if you get along well enough with your co-parent.
4. Avoid Conflict with Your Co-Parent
Hopefully, you and your co-parent are mature enough to handle your disagreements politely and privately. But if you’re unable to interact without fighting, avoid in-person time unless absolutely necessary. Make drop-offs quick and efficient. If fighting happens at every post-divorce interaction, kids may develop anxiety about visiting one or both parents’ homes. Your children have just had their lives uprooted, perhaps traumatically, by divorce. Don’t create even more emotional distress for them.
5. Have a Positive Attitude
Easier said than done, right? As your children adjust to your family’s new normal, try to stay optimistic about the future. Attitude can go a long way toward helping everyone, kids and adults alike, grow through difficult experiences.
Switching Between Homes Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
You and your co-parent are the biggest factor in how your children adjust to transitioning between homes. Of course, you can only control your own actions. You cannot change how your co-parent approaches this process. Hopefully, with a plan by at least one parent to prioritize the children’s emotional well-being and comfort, transitions between households will soon feel routine. Our hope is that these tips will help you facilitate smooth, predictable transitions so your children understand that, despite the divorce, they are still safe, secure, and loved.
CONTACT CREATIVE COUNSELING CENTER
If you’re experiencing post-divorce struggles, we’d like to support you through the process. Sometimes taking the first step is the most difficult. We try to make it easy by offering a free phone consultation to learn about whether our practice might be a good fit for you. Simple complete the brief from below and a member of our team will contact you. After a conversation about where you are now and where you’d like to be instead, we can recommend which therapist in our practice is the best fit. If our practice is not right, for whatever reason, we’re happy to offer recommendations to providers in the Denver metro area. We look forward to hearing from you!