For many children, divorce becomes real when one parent moves out of the house. The divorce papers could be signed before or after a parent moves out, but to a kid, the date the papers are signed usually doesn’t matter too much.
As soon as one parent moves out, the child will see less of that parent or the child will begin living in two houses instead of one. This can be a big change for a child, and it can take some time for a child to adjust. Fortunately, there are ways both parents can help.
Each child should have his or her own space
A child will generally adjust better to having two homes when he or she feels comfortable in both homes. One way to do that is to have a space for each child in both homes.
This could mean that each child has his or her own room, but it could also mean that the child has his or her own toy bin, dresser or shelf. Having a personal space in a house can help a child feel like he or she belongs in that house.
Only certain possessions should be duplicated
Along with having his or her own space, it is also important that each child is free to keep possessions at both houses. Some possessions, like clothes and toothbrushes, may be logical to keep in both houses.
However, children should also be able to take possessions back and forth between homes. Some items cannot be duplicated, like a comfort object, special night light or unique toy. Having these familiar items nearby can help a child feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar or changed home.
Parents can try to make transitions easier
Parents can also help kids cope with having two homes by taking steps to make transitions easier. If your child forgets a favorite toy at one house, try to be accommodating to get it back to the child. If you and your co-parent must interact, keep it friendly and upbeat, or at least cordial.
When it comes to switch days, consider having the parent who already has the kids drop them off with the other parent to avoid any unintended disruption for the children. The parent who is receiving the kids may consider planning relaxing activities after their arrival. This can help allow the children time to adjust to the switch.
Switching from life in one home to life in two can be jarring to a child. However, most kids adjust well in time, and there are several steps you and your co-parent can take to help them along the way.