By Gianna Huesch
It can be confusing for kids to adjust to new living arrangements, so what can separated or divorced parents do to ease the transition? Here’s a round up of tips that may help.
- Make sure your kids understand that both their parents still love them, even though they are no longer together.
- You will never be able to create an exact replica of your prior family life with a dual parent household. Things have changed, and your kids need to acknowledge this. Make sure your kids understand that they will likely be spending substantial amounts of time in two houses.
- Show the kids that although their lives have changed, certain aspects will remain the same. Continue to organise activities as usual to maintain as much normalcy as possible.
- While each house may have a different routine, kids can cope with this provided the rules are clear and things are predictable. Explain that in your house, “we do things this way”.
- Try to be enthusiastic about their time in their second house. It’s important to encourage a positive bond with their other parent. Your ex is their parent too and deserves respect. Model cooperation and civility as much as you can. Seeing their parents get along goes a long way towards helping kids adjust to their new normal.
- Never badmouth your ex. Apart from creating loyalty conflicts, it’s likely to affect your child’s self-esteem, since their self image is based in part on a reflection of how they view their parents.
- You and your ex might find a shared online calendar app is a helpful way to stay organised and communicate effectively.
- Consistency is paramount. Be organised. Your child needs to know where and when they will see you both, and who will do school pickups and so on.
- Remind them a few days beforehand about the changeover. This helps them anticipate change and provides them the opportunity to adapt.
- Create a transition ritual. This may be an activity that always takes place after changeover, or a special meal as a way to reunite and catch up on things that were missed. Whatever it may be, make sure it is enjoyable and relaxing. When returning, allow your child a chance to regroup and unwind, to help with resettling.
- Keep a set of basic items (underwear, toiletries, pyjamas etc) in both homes.
- Involve your child in packing their bag and special items they wish to transport. Create a list together that can be used each time. Don’t forget things like schoolbooks and homework.
- Create a special place in each home that the child can call their own, even if they do not have their own bedroom in each house. It may be as simple as a special cupboard for toys or a wall just for your child to decorate with favourite pictures and photos.
- Avoid interrogating your child about what happens in your ex’s home. This creates pressure and anxiety in your child as they try not to upset you.
- Make sure you listen to your child about any concerns or anxieties they may have about transitioning between homes. You may need to discuss changing arrangements that aren’t working with your ex.
- Encourage communication with the other parent while your child is with you, whether it’s text messages or Skype calls.
- Never force the kids to talk about your divorce. Let them know you are there to talk about it if they wish, but allow them to guide you, and don’t push them to discuss their trauma.
- Creating a sense of normalcy is vital. However, it can be tempting to try to make up for all the changes and trauma by letting the children get away with more than usual. Parental authority is one of the critical aspects of a healthy parent-child relationship, so don’t let your divorce affect your ability to impose boundaries and limits. It’s important to show the kids that you are in control and that life for them will continue as normal. Allowing them to misbehave as some kind of reward for cooperating with the divorce will only lead to difficulties imposing authority down the track. Therefore, make sure you continue to hold the kids accountable for their behaviour, praising them and disciplining them as you always have
Do you need help with a divorce or other family law matter? Please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our other solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400—your first conference is completely free and without obligation.