For children to have two (2) places to call home – Mom’s and Dad’s – it can be confusing, especially during a joint custody schedule where they split their time between parents. Going from household to household means adhering to the rules of each household and it also means change. Children are not known to welcome disruption in their daily routines. On the brighter side, children are also known to be excited in living in a new home, decorating a new room, and exploring a new neighborhood.
While it can be tough for children to get used to the idea of having two (2) places to call home, it is possible for them to welcome the adjustment and enjoy staying in each house when they are there. The transition from one home to another can sometimes be an upsetting time for children so you would need to provide plenty of reassurances. Here are a few things on how you can help your child with moving between two (2) homes:
Listen to what your child has to say.
It is always a better idea to involve your children in your decision-making especially when you are establishing a new home. You can involve your child in simple decisions such as what color do they want to paint their room, what cool sheets do they want to pick, or what furnishing suits best in one corner.
Re-assure your child.
As your child adjust to new surroundings, you can re-assure him or her by making the place familiar since too much change can be a little overwhelming to a child. Children will feel more comfortable in their new environment with some familiar belongings or toys around them. If you know your child has a favorite toy or a thing that he or she adores, see if you can duplicate the item for the new home. You can also make “go bags” that have stuff that they like which they can bring from house to house. Re-assuring your child that not everything will completely change and that there are things they can still cling on to when adapting to change.
Give your children their own space in each household
Encourage your children to use their own space in whatever way that makes them happy and peaceful.
Keep calendars and a set-schedule on both homes.
You can use visual reminders such as calendars, notes, or a visible schedule in both homes. You can highlight Mom’s days in one color and Dad’s days in another color. This will help your child keep track of where he or she will be and when. Keeping a calendar will also benefit you, as a parent, so you can keep things flowing smoothly while moving the children back and forth to different homes.
Both homes should have important everyday items.
If you are constantly packing and unpacking your child’s things every time he or she goes to the other house, it will drag on both you and your child. It will be exhausting. Items will be forgotten; stress will be alleviated, and things around the house will be displaced. To remedy this, both homes should have important everyday items such as clothing, toiletries, pajamas, books, toys, and study materials.
Keep some consistency
Having to live in two homes will be a big enough change for a child. Keep some possible normal routines so the child can ease in and adjust into the situation slowly. You can do this by sharing bedtime routines, homework routines, playtime routines, and screen time limits.
Find some common ground
As co-parents, you must introduce rules to the children that they should follow in both houses. Examples are, “When the other parent already said no to a certain request, then the child must not ask again”, or “Start homework first after school before play time”, or the most common: “When at Dad’s house, follow his rules and when at Mom’s house, follow her rules.”
Having some set ground rules that the children must follow sends a message to them that even though Dad and Mom are no longer married, they are still doing what is best for the children and committed to a successful co-parenting. Also, this way, the children will know that they can rely on both parents whatever happens.
Take advantage of technology
Using technology can help take the strain out of organizing and communicating with your ex/co-parent. You can use shared calendars that can track school holidays and schedules. You can also input shared parenting goals like bedtime and screentime in another application. Most importantly, you can communicate using cellphones, iPads, or tablets when needed.
Create a parenting plan with your ex
It may be a easier said than done but you should treat your co-parent as a colleague at least. Sit down with your co-parent to set out rules of your child-rearing partnership. The detailed the plan is, the more it will make co-parenting easier if you both stick to the rules. Some plans to think about are, “When will you pickup the children during transition days?”, “How long will the child stay in your house?”, “How will you share birthday celebrations and holidays?”, “How long will you wait before introducing a significant other?”, “Is it okay to post pictures of the children in social media?”, “What school will they go to?”, “Is it okay for them to have boyfriends or girlfriends?” There are still so many more important things to talk about and plan about. Revisit the parenting plan every now and then to ensure that it is still relevant according to your children’s ages.
Never bad-mouth your ex/co-parent in front of your children
This one can be tough, but you must make sure you abide by this rule. If you have some issues with your ex, deal with it in another way but never let the little ears hear them. It is never okay to vent out your frustrations about your ex to your kids. Children become conflicted if they feel they must align with one parent or another. This can also promote “white lies” in the future if it comes to it.
Living in two (2) different homes can be hard for a child at first. Eventually, with some ground rules and reasonable expectations, children will learn how having different homes can help them develop skills in managing differences and overcoming obstacles. Helping your child in this transition and giving them support is the best way to make sure they become more accepting of the situation, especially during a joint custody schedule where they split their time between parents.
Change is per se not the problem, but resistance to it is. With a reasonable parenting plan, review of changes, acceptance, families endure change. Facing the change head-on through discussion and communication can minimize negative emotions and can help maintain good relationship between children and co-parents. If you need more advice in these tough times, you can consult with Virginia Divorce Attorney Tori Bramble. Contact us at (540) 628-7340 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.