Divorce is hard for everybody involved, but children face unique challenges after a parent moves out. For one, children crave predictability and structure. They need it, no matter their family situation.
From a child’s point of view, their entire world is being turned upside down through divorce. They have zero control over what is happening and may feel confused. Often, children don’t know how to express their emotions—or even how to put words to their feelings.
As challenging as it can be, ideally, parents will work together to help their children as they learn to transition from one home to another regularly. Here are some essential steps you can take during this time.
Create a Co-parenting Plan
Things will be smoother for everybody if parents can agree on primary goals and guidelines for their children. Creating a plan and communicating it regularly to children can help significantly.
One of the main elements of this plan is, of course, the visitation schedule. Whether you can work this out together or a judge determines it, keeping it consistent and predictable is paramount. Once it is set, make sure it is communicated ahead of time to avoid surprises.
Use a Child-Friendly Calendar
Keep a color-coded calendar where your children can see it. Invite them to help make the calendar. You can let them choose one color for days with mom and another color for days with dad. Remind them the night before and the day of transitions to spending time with the other parent. Use the calendar to review holiday and school break visitations, as well. Help them know who they’ll be spending each holiday with.
Be as cordial with your ex as possible during visitation drop-offs. Don’t allow yourself to start arguing in front of the kids. Keep the focus on them. Encourage them to have fun and enjoy their time with the other parent.
Design Cozy Bedrooms and Homes
While rooms don’t have to be duplicated, having some of the same items can provide comfort. Allow your child to be involved in deciding how to set up their room. Let them choose bedding and curtains, for example. If they want to bring certain stuffed animals or other comfort items from home to home, let them. Ensure that each home has an adequate supply of clothes and other required items in case anything is forgotten. Try to create a cozy, comfortable atmosphere in the rest of the home as well. Establish fun, new traditions, both for every day and for holidays, to help build connections.
Support Phone Use
Allow them free access to the other parent by phone, text, or video chat. Don’t prevent them from contacting their other parent when they are with you. Children need a lot of time to adjust to such significant changes. It’s normal for them to want reassurance from the other parent even when they are with you.
Give Them Lots of Attention
When it is your turn to have the kids, shower them with attention. This is not the time to hand them over to a babysitter so you can go golfing or on a date. They need you and yearn for your attention. Children want to know that they matter to you. They want to know that you value your time with them.
Expect that your child will struggle with emotions and behavior. They may well lash out at you. This response is not their fault. While healthy boundaries are important, so is being patient and loving with them. Don’t get angry at them in return. Let them express their feelings.
Numerous resources are available to help all of you during this time. Consult co-parenting books and support groups. Educate yourself on what your child may be feeling during this time.
Meeting with a therapist who specializes in working with families and children can provide invaluable insight. While there may be bumps along the road, you can take proactive steps to empower your children during this time.
Our office specializes in helping children during the transition of divorce. We are here to support you during this time. Please call us to schedule an appointment.
We are here for you and your loved one during this time. Please contact our office to learn more.
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