Children and Divorce: Living in Two Separate Homes
Divorce divides kids between two separate households. It’s not easy for them to get adjusted to the idea of spending time in two places instead of having one home base. Here are some ideas to help make the transition easier for them.
Joint custody can work if both parents are willing to try. This could mean buying two of everything so that the kids feel comfortable in both places. You wouldn’t want your daughter leaving her stuffed bear at dad’s house and mom having to drive all the way back over there to get it in the dead of night, or vice versa.
Kids will get used to living in two places if both parents are on board. It will seem strange, but parents know this and can assure their kids that they understand. Parents shouldn’t take it personally if kids want to spend the day but not the night. This doesn’t mean that they like one parent better than the other. They are used to that house since it has been their home all of their lives.
The newest residence will seem strange at first. The kids have never been here before so it will take some getting used to. They may cry for home that first night that they stay. If they want to go back to their old place, then they should be taken there. Their crying is not a rejection of the other parent; it is the fear of change.
The transition to a new living arrangement is an ongoing process. Kids will have two households and two sets of rules. Some rules need to be agreed upon by both parents to avoid manipulation. For instance, if a child is grounded at mom’s house because of his grades, then he is grounded at dad’s house too. Kids have to follow the rules at both residences just as if their parents were still living under one roof. They may not like it, but if you stick to your guns they will respect it.
When kids leave to spend the weekend with dad, for example, don’t hug them as if you will never see them again. This desperate show of affection signals to kids that you don’t want them to go. They have a right to see their father and spend time with him. His household is their home, too. Assure the kids that you won’t love them any less if they want to see their dad.
Moms will probably field the most questions about the new living arrangement. Kids that want their parents to get back together may fight the two household idea in the hope that the other parent will move back in. This is an idea that most kids of divorced parents hang on to. Tell your kids that this will not be the case.
Also let them know that they can take as much time as they need to get used to the second household. Enlist the aid of the other parent. They can reinforce what you are saying by having a similar conversation with the kids.
Splitting up the family into two households is a big change for kids. Moms and dads can assure them that they both want the new living situation to succeed. Transitions of this type take time, so be patient with your kids.
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