One of the most challenging adjustments for a family going through divorce is having two separate places to call home. This abrupt change can be confusing to children as well as stressful. Portraying the new change as exciting as opposed to something upsetting can help the adjustment go a lot smoother – the excitement of a new home, a new bedroom to decorate, a new neighborhood to explore and new friends to make.
Regardless of whether you're setting up a new address or maintaining the present one, there are several things you can do at home to help your children adjust to all of the changes. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Let your child have a say.
If you’re establishing a new home, involve your child in decorating their new bedroom such as picking the color scheme, what sheets they want or posters they want to hang on the walls. If it isn’t possible for each child to have his or her own room, they can have their own space in a room such as their own dresser, shelf space or toys area that is exclusively theirs. They should be allowed to choose what they keep at each house and take items between each as well.
How does this help? It creates a sense of belonging in both homes. Many children enjoy having two homes because they get extra attention, which sometimes means having two birthday parties and two sets of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts.
2. Make the new place feel familiar.
Too many sudden changes can be overwhelming to a child, but they’ll feel a sense of comfort in their new environment with some familiar belongings around them. If there's something special at your former home that you know he or she adores (a special night light, a photo, or a teddy bear), try to purchase it for the new house or make sure it's always in their "go bag" that travels with them from house to house. Even ordinary items like books, clothes and princess decorated plates can make your child feel more at home.
3. Come up with a packing plan.
When your children transition from one house to another, sometimes they’ll forget things. To prevent a melt down, both homes should always have extra toiletries, pajamas, spare clothing, books, and movies on hand. Some schools even provide children who have two homes with two sets of books. Also, help your younger child pack their bags the night before the transition. Overall, the child should be allowed to carry their things back and forth between houses without conflict or tension with parents and parents should cooperate in returning any clothes or toys needed when switching between either home.
While you’re starting the parenting schedule with your children, it’s so important to let your child have a say in their new environment, make the new home feel familiar, have a packing plan and try to be patient. This transition is just as difficult for your child as it is for you and by being patient when they forget things and are getting used to their new schedule, you are strengthening your relationship with them day by day.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.