When parents decide to divorce, how they handle it and the family changes, including custody and visitation arrangements,’that follow can strongly impact how well a child adjusts to those changes. Will the child still feel secure despite those changes or will they feel as if their whole world is falling apart?
One of the areas which can be the hardest for children of divorce is that they now have two places to call home. Two houses, two beds, two set of rules, two toy boxes, etc. Often, along with these ‘two’ of everything, comes a change in routine. Their time may be equally divided between Mom and Dad’s homes now, or they may have certain nights and every other weekend with one parent, depending on what type of child custody agreement parents work out.
In order to best help a child with this transition, parenting experts suggest taking an active approach to the new situation. While the specifics of every case are unique, there are certain steps the parent who is establishing a new home can take to make his or her child more comfortable in two homes.
Include Your Child
It is very important to allow a child to feel as if they have some control over things, especially with all the changes that are taking place in their life. Letting your child help decorate the home, particularly when it comes to their bedroom, will help the child feel as if it truly is their home too, and not just the place they visit every other weekend.
A Few Favorite Things
Having items that are familiar to the child will also help them feel comfortable in your new home. If there are certain favorite items your child has at their other home – such as a hanging picture in their room or a special nightlight – see if you can find the same item and have it at your new home too. Another option is to have a what some family counselors call ‘go bags’ which your child can use to transport favorite items to each parent’s home – such as favorite stuffed animal or teddy bear.
Help Your Child Feel at Home
Having to travel with an overnight bag or suitcase can leave a child feeling like a ‘visitor’ and can also cause stress because of forgotten or left-behind items. Instead, make sure that your child has clothing, pajamas, toothbrush, toothpaste and other toiletries, at your home. Having their own toys, games, and books at your home will also help it feel more like your child’s home to them as well.
As difficult as it may be sometimes, it is also important to stick to your child’s normal routine as much as possible – even if you only have limited visitation. Having a regular bedtime and homework time will help reinforce that your home is not just the ‘every other weekend’ hangout’ it is their home too.
Co-parenting can be a difficult process, especially if the other parent is not cooperative or looking out for the best interest of your child. If you are struggling with child custody issues, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney to find out what your legal options may be.