When your child starts splitting their time between two homes following a divorce, it can lead to challenges, confusion and negative emotions. Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help make this process easier – and even fun – for your child, by giving them a sense of control and belonging. Here are a few ways to help your child adjust to living in two homes:
Divorce has never been more commonplace than it is today. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a big deal for your kids, though. Your child will have questions, and it’s important to be ready to talk about what to expect and make it seem less scary. You can talk to your child about other classmates or friends who live in two households. You can reassure them that the parent who’s moving out will continue to live close by. There is also a plethora of children’s books available on the topic of families with two homes.
One way to help shift your child’s attitude about transitioning into two homes is to give them an active role in designing their personal space in each home. Whether they will have their own bedroom or a personal nook in a shared space, let them choose the colors they want on the walls as well as the furniture, toys and books they want to keep at each house. You may even want to involve your children in helping to select their new home.
This type of approach can help to ease the transition for your child, give them a sense of control in a situation where they might otherwise feel powerless and help them to feel comfortable and safe in both homes.
Home, not hotel
Nothing makes you feel like a guest in your own home like having to pack a bag every time you come to stay. Do everything you can to reduce unnecessary schlepping back and forth. Keep a toothbrush and a set of pajamas in both homes. Let your child decide which clothes, toys and books they want to keep permanently in each home.
It’s also important to treat your kids as family – not as special guests – when they come to visit. It can be tempting to want to spoil them when you see them, especially if you only get to see them occasionally. But giving your child chores, house rules and a bedtime will reinforce to your child that they are a member of the family, not a guest.
Children take their cue from their parents in terms of how to react to new situations. If you focus on the exciting aspects of this new chapter, they will follow suit.