The decision to leave a marriage, when there are children involved, creates many unsettling questions: Will the kids be okay, how will they handle having two homes, two lives, parents that don’t live together? Will they be angry at me? Am I being selfish by only thinking about myself? The good news is that studies have shown that Divorce isn’t a traumatic event for children. The bad news is that what happens after can be, though it is something in your control. So take the reigns immediately and focus on your children’s transition into this new living situation.
Your job as a parent has always been to care for, protect and love your children at all costs. Your job now, is still that, but with even more emphasis on how much they are loved. Once you accept that, you are ready to focus on the transition of your children having two homes, each that provides a safe environment and a parent figure that loves unconditionally. Here are a few ways you can make the transition into having two homes a little easier.
The goal is to make each house as self-sufficient as possible for your child:
1- The only bag they should have to bring is their school back pack, which they are used to bringing everywhere anyway. Each house should have all the clothes they need for the amount of time they spend there. Even if it means going to the store to buy a whole new set of clothing, do it. It’s a small inconvenience for you, but will assure them this is “home.”
2- They should have a room in each house that they feel safe in. Whether they share a room, or have their own space, let them help you create the space the way they like.
3- Have books, games, computer and video games that they are used to having.
4- Do not try to recreate the old house. Each house does not have to be the same, as little differences will be what make your time and your space, special.
5- Set up routines, just as you did as a larger family and create new ones as well. Often we want to win them over by having fewer rules, yet in fact children flourish with routine. Children need routine and if they’ve always had it, they will need it now more than ever.
6- Have family dinner time. No one ever said “family dinner” had to be a certain amount of people. Family dinner merely means a time for you to all sit down, eat and share a piece of your life with each other. Don’t give that up, no matter how loud the TV calls to you.
7- Talk, talk, talk. Be direct. Ask them how it is for them having two homes, without fearing the answer. Ask what their favorite part is, as well as what the most difficult part it. Then just listen, no matter what their answer is. This open communication with them, one that is safe for all feelings, will assure them of your love for them.
The goal here is to have them feel that no matter which parent they are with, they are “home”, not just visiting. Think about what makes your home feel homey and then create that for them as well. You will be amazed at how well they adjust. The old saying really is true: Home is where the heart is. And hopefully they will experience an even happier heart from you than they ever did before. Don’t get stuck in the fact that it isn’t going to be the same, because you are right, it isn’t. I will repeat that: it isn’t going to be the same. But now is the time to embrace the change and see what great things can come from it!