Divorce or parental separation is one of the most difficult decisions a family can face. Not only does it create emotional stress, but the breakup of households means children have to adjust to two separate homes. This transition comes with further challenges as they learn how to navigate alternating between two residences — and possibly even two different sets of rules. If you are going through or have gone through a divorce while raising kids, you know how hard it can be for them and how important it is to do whatever you can to help them cope in healthy ways. In this blog post, we discuss some tips on easing children into life after divorce so that everyone involved can heal from the experience and look toward brighter days ahead.
6 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to New Living Arrangements
1. Set Up Similar Routines & Expectations
Establishing consistent routines and rules between both households can be beneficial for young children as it provides them with emotional security, comfort, and stability. This is especially true when it comes to bedtime and mealtime, where repetition prepares children for the rhythm of their days. Additionally, having a dependable routine helps children understand what is expected of them, reaffirms their sense of trust in their environment, and makes daily tasks easier for them to manage.
Maintaining similar rules about chores, playtime, homework, etc. between each household can also help children understand what behaviors are and are not okay. This can help children learn to make good decisions by themselves as they grow older. Be sure to also have similar consequences in place when rules are broken. Doing so can help kids understand the importance of certain rules within the family.
A few routines and rules to talk to your spouse about keeping similar between your households can include:
- Morning and bedtime routines
- Meal occurrences
- After-school routines
- Consequences for rule-breaking
Routines can look different for children of different age groups. Younger children may need more solid routines and rules on bedtime and after-school routines while older children need more rules about helping around the house.
2. Let Them Own Their Space
Encourage your kids to decorate and customize their bedrooms to their liking. Even if they share a room, give them ideas on wall decorations or set up a drawer for their toys. Living between two homes can make it harder for children to truly feel “at home” in some cases. Talk to your child about what additions they would like and try to have their space in each home tailored to their liking. It can create a comforting and safe space for your kids.
A few ideas for customizing can include:
- Favorite pictures
Ultimately, you want to make sure your kids don’t feel like a visitor in their home. Making small additions to their space can do wonders for a child’s feeling of stability and safety.
3. Be Communicative & Listen
Moving between two homes can be difficult for children and it can bring up feelings of confusion and anxiety. As a parent, it's important to be understanding of your child's feelings and really listen to any worries they might have. If changes need to be made to the arrangements, try having a conversation with their other parent if at all possible. If this isn't an option, consider talking to a counselor or another mental health professional who can help support your child during this transition.
Remember, try not to be too hard on yourself as you are going through this separation as well. Remaining open with your children about changes, schedules, and how your children are feeling, can help them in this transitional period.
A few topics to talk to your kids about are:
- How they are feeling in both homes
- How they feel at school
- Pick-up & drop-off changes
- Holiday celebration changes
4. Have Necessities
Keep a set of necessities in each home for your children. They should have everything they need in each home instead of bringing basic necessities back and forth. Take time to assure your child has everything they need in your home and your ex’s.
A few items to be sure your child has may include:
- School supplies
The list varies for each child but ultimately, making sure children can stay at one house or another without feeling like they’re a guest is a good rule of thumb.
5. Duplicate Favorite Items
Buying two sets of certain items can be a beneficial strategy for children living in split households. Doing this helps take the pressure off of packing and remembering everything, while also avoiding any emotional meltdowns due to leaving something behind by accident.
Try to duplicate the basics such as favorite stuffed animals, snacks, etc. Depending on your child’s hobbies and interests you could duplicate those items as well such as crayons, basketballs, and more. Having backup items available allows your child to have anything they need without worrying about packing it back and forth between homes. Duplicating favorite items can also help your child feel more comforted in either house.
6. Communicate with Your Ex
Communicating effectively with your spouse about topics that involve your child can be difficult but is vital for strong co-parenting. Instead of having your child act as a messenger, make it a point to have meetings with your ex to discuss needed matters concerning the children, such as schedules, academic reports, discipline methods, etc. Having these meetings routinely, such as each month or every other week, can help keep both parents on the same page. During these conversations refrain from discussing any personal details or try to derail the conversation away from the kids. If things begin heading in that direction, steering the conversation back on track or just graciously ending the discussion is acceptable.
Being upfront yet respectful during this delicate process will create an atmosphere that encourages positive parenting and fosters strong relationships with both parents. If meeting in person is not possible, having these conversations over email can be a method to try.
A separation of households is a trying time for parents and children involved. Parents must learn to co-parent and communicate despite their differences, while children have to adapt to living in two separate homes. It's important to remember that the adjustment period will be different for every family. Children especially may need extra support as they learn how to cope with this new normal. With understanding and preparation, parents can help their kids through this tough transition.
For concerns about child support, child custody, or modifications, reach out to our attorneys at Conner & Roberts, PLLC. After decades of experience pursuing our clients’ best interests, we’re committed to providing you with accessible and effective legal services.
Call today at or schedule a free consultation with us online!