While divorce and custody cases present chaos for adults, it also creates chaos in the lives of the children. It should not be overlooked that the children are also going through a time of enormous transition. Children look to their parents for stability and comfort, and a divorce or separation means that the previously united source of stability is now fractured in two. Children will adapt to the new “normal” of having two homes, but there are steps the parents can and should take to help encourage children to get ready for having two homes.
First, the parents need to stay as positive as possible. Although the parents are surely going through a difficult time, they need to focus on the children’s emotions and concerns. The parents should not speak badly about the other parent’s new residence or express concern about its suitability in front of the children. The parents should also do their best to not compete with each other in terms of the special features that each parent has at his or her house. If the child expresses that he or she likes his or her new room, then the parent should express excitement for the child and resist the urge to totally remodel the child’s old room in an effort to “keep up.”
Second, the parents should try to make the children involved in setting up the new home. The children can help pick out new furniture or paint color, help choose which room will be theirs, or help select new bed linens. Keeping the child involved can help him or her feel a little more control over the situation, providing a better sense of stability.
Third, the parents should make any new home as familiar as possible. It may be appropriate, for example, for the person who is moving out to take the child’s furniture with him or her, while the person who remains in the marital residence to be the one to purchase new furniture. This will mean that the child has familiar surroundings in both the old home and the new home.
Finally, making a calendar for the child as to when he or she will be spending the night at each house will help the child know what to expect and establish a sense of normalcy. This is especially helpful with parenting schedules that involve frequent exchanges.If you are facing a child custody case, contact us today at (732) 529-6937. We are experienced in helping clients with making the transition.