How Can I Help My Child Adjust to Life after Divorce?
Divorce is a time of profound change. And that change has a profound and lasting impact on every member of the family, including children. Some married parents even hold off on divorce because of how it may affect the children. But delaying the inevitable is not always the ideal solution, especially if the children are exposed to arguments and conflict.
Instead, focus on being mindful of the changes your family is experiencing and take steps to help your children navigate these transitions in healthy ways.
Some Tips to Help Your Child Transition to Post-Divorce Life
Going through a divorce with young children can feel overwhelming. As a parent, it is not always easy to know the right way to help youngsters through divorce. Fortunately, there are practical things you can do to help your children process the changes that come when parents break up.
Some tips help children adjust to the practical logistics of spreading their time between two homes. Others have more to do with how children process the emotional and psychological impact of a major life change such as divorce.
Create similar spaces in both homes. Your child may feel unsure or anxious the first time they go to visit their other parent in their new residence. They may not know their way around, or it just may not feel quite like home. To create a sense of continuity, try to create similar spaces for your child in both homes if possible.
It can be as extensive as recreating their bedroom in the new home, or as simple as buying the same comforters for both beds and even just hanging a copy of the same poster in both parents’ places.
If your child is an avid reader, carve out a corner in each home for a reading nook complete with similar cozy chairs and fluffy blankets. These little touches give children a sense of comfort that reassures them they are safe and at home.
Keep essentials with both parents. Along those same lines, it is a good idea to keep toiletries and other essentials at both houses. Children do not want to feel like they are just visiting when they stay with their non-custodial parent. If they have personal items at each home, they do not have to live out of overnight bags or worry they are going to forget to bring something when they come for overnight visitation.
By having clothes, toys, their favorite foods, toothbrushes, and other items always available in both places, it reinforces the idea they belong and have a home with each parent.
Maintain a consistent routine. Another way to provide some consistency amid the tremendous changes that come with divorce is to keep a similar routine at both parents’ homes. When children know generally what to expect on a day-to-day basis, they may feel less anxious or uncertain.
You and your ex-spouse can work together a create a loose schedule for mealtimes, homework time, chores, and bedtime that carries over when your child is with you and your ex-spouse. Structure is beneficial for all children, not just those with divorced parents. A daily routine establishes healthy habits, good time management, and builds children’s confidence as they learn what needs to be done and tackle it on their own without prompting.
Wait to introduce a new partner. The goal after divorce is to help children feel grounded, secure, and safe despite the obvious shifts occurring in their family. Give them time and space to process the divorce without any other major life changes.
Although you may not be able to control some things, such as a transfer to a new school after a move, you can control when you introduce your child to a new love interest. As exciting as it is to find love again after divorce, remember your child may not be quite as enthusiastic.
Before bringing a new love interest around your child, ask yourself:
- Are they a good fit for my family?
- Do they understand my child is the priority?
- Will my child see this person as a rival for my attention?
- How can I reassure my child there is plenty of love to go around?
- Have I checked-in with my child to see how they feel about me dating?
As far as introducing a new partner to your child, psychologists generally recommend waiting at least six months. And some say even longer if your child is still mourning the family unit and having trouble accepting the divorce.
Shield the children from conflict. One thing divorced parents sometimes forget is their relationship with an ex-spouse is a separate from the connections a child has with each parent. Children of divorced parents should not feel guilty about loving each parent.
When parents fight in front of the children, the youngsters may internalize that conflict and feel they have done something wrong, or even believe they are reason why the family broke up. Parents should avoid criticizing their ex-spouse in front of the child or turning the child against the other parent.
Every child has the right to maintain and nurture a relationship with each parent and even new partners and stepparents if they want. It will be easier for children to adjust to post-divorce life if the transition is as peaceful and agreeable as it can be.
Stay connected during non-custodial time. When a child is used to always having both parents in the home, being away from one or the other at any time can be very difficult. Make it a point to stay connected when your child is with your ex-spouse. Although you do not want to be too intrusive during your ex-spouse’s parenting time, you can let your child know you are thinking of them by sending a simple text or having a quick video call.
Be open to compromise. With all this talk about schedules, routine, and consistency, it is also important to leave some room for flexibility. Life is unpredictable. And although it is essential to have a secure parenting plan in place, be prepared for unexpected changes.
If a change in plans is best for your child, go along with it. Perhaps your child is scheduled to be with you on a certain weekend, but your ex-spouse wants to take them skiing. The ski resort only has rooms open during your parenting time. Maybe you can compromise and reschedule your weekend for the following week.
Digging your heels in to prove a point could cost your child a fun adventure and lots of great memories. If you bend a little here and there, your ex-spouse may bend as well. And that may very well lead to a more peaceful coparenting relationship.
Consider family therapy. The final recommendation is to consider family counseling for any child who is struggling to adjust to life after divorce. Therapy can be invaluable for every member of the family, giving each person a safe space to express their feelings.
Children would often prefer talking to a neutral counselor because they do not want to worry parents during an already stressful time. When looking for a counselor, choose one who works specifically with children and families dealing with divorce.
Divorce is an end to the family unit as you once knew it. But it can also be the start of a bright and hopeful chapter of life. With patience, time, and understanding, your child can come out on the other side of divorce in a hopeful and positive place.
Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Handle Complex Divorce Matters for Clients in New Jersey
If you have questions about your parenting plan or have concerns about how to protect your child’s rights during divorce, the Morristown child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., can help. We treat matters involving children with the utmost care and compassion. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.