In the process of divorce it’s important to remember that your children are often caught in the middle of an entire uprooting, without a sounding board or support system in place to help them through it. Many times, children are expected to simply cope with the new changes, instead of working as a team to coach them through the shift you are all experiencing. To help ease the pain of “losing” a family, here are four things you can do to help your children adjust:
Have a support system in place: Many times children don’t want to open up to either parent, out of fear of hurting feelings or taking sides in an otherwise difficult process – making the support system crucial to their adjustment. Take the time to find out who your children would like to talk to (whether that’s a private counselor or someone they know and trust) and offer the opportunity to discuss any concerns they have.
Offer open communication: If a child is used to seeing a parent every day it might be a little unnerving to think they can only see them every other weekend. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open and available to both you and your ex – regardless of whose custody time it is. Allow your children to call or email the other parent when they’d like to talk (even if it’s about nothing) so they still feel connected at a time they’re mourning.
Have items move with them instead of separate homes: Allow your children the opportunity to bring any clothing, electronics, stuffed animals and other items back and forth between the homes as the need arises – and don’t worry if it gets left there instead of returned. Children enjoy knowing that they maintain some control (even if it’s simply bringing things back and forth) at a time they’re otherwise stuck.
Keep friends between houses: Children are going to adapt to having a separate group of friends depending on the residence they’re staying at—but that doesn’t mean the friends shouldn’t be able to shift with them between homes. Make sure you ask about your child’s friends at each house and ask if they’d like to come over and visit during your access or custody times. If you’re not sure about how to approach it, as your child if they’d like to show their friends the new room or set up.