Imagine you would be required to switch living arrangements every month or week, or perhaps even twice a week?
At first, it may seem like an adventure, as if you were going on one sleepover after another. Eventually, though, you may become weary of it.
What would it take for you to feel comfortable with the constant moving? What would you need to have a feeling of security?
That’s exactly what you should ask yourself about your children if they have to transition between your and your ex-spouse’s home after a divorce.
From Mom to Dad and Back Again
Consistently transitioning between two homes can be a pretty weighty matter for children of divorce. Even if they like both places and like seeing their parents, switching gears and coping with repeated changes in their routine isn’t easy.
As a divorced parent, you probably have already noted which of your children has more trouble with going from mom to dad and back again, over and over. Some may become highly emotional, frustrated, or even combative when the time comes to make the transition once more. And it can take them a couple of days to settle down after arriving at your home.
While, ideally, two ex-spouses who are co-parenting should sit down and come up with a plan to stay in sync, that often does not happen, for various reasons.
If you managed to work that well with your ex-spouse, more power to you! But even if you haven’t been able to line up things with each other for the sake of your children, there are ways to make the transition easier on them.
Understand your children’s dilemma
As already mentioned, moving back and forth from one home to another on a weekly basis is a challenge for children. Don’t even assume that it’s all fun and games for them!
While you have your own challenges with the situation, you and your ex-spouse get to stay in the same place week after week. So, start by putting yourself in your children’s shoes and really understand what it must look like from their side. Empathy and compassion will go a long way to get you started with hitting the right tone when helping your children to cope with their dilemma.
Give your unconditional love and support
Both you and your ex are important in your children’s lives. If you’re making this a competition between you and your ex-spouse, your focusing on the wrong thing!
So, don’t make these already difficult transitions harder on them by manipulating your children or making them feel bad for caring about their other parent as well. Instead, they should feel your unconditional love and support and feel free to love each of you without guilt.
Be the example to convey important values
Obviously, you’ll have little control over what rules your ex has for your children when they’re with them. Which means, your children must learn to be responsible for their own actions.
Even if they are very young, you can help them learn the values you find important. So, strive to be a good example of the principles you want them to know when you are with you, explaining the importance of these things.
Have a consistent routine for your home
Having a reliable routine at your own home connects with the aforementioned point. No matter what they may say, children really need a consistent and trusted system to help them feel more secure.
Think about keeping with a dependable routine in terms of activities and chores for the week, or even regular mealtimes. Moreover, consider letting your children have a comfort object (a stuffed animal or doll, etc.) that can be a consistent companion and easily make the transition with them each time.
Show interest but don’t be nosey
There’s a fine line between demonstrating a genuine interest in your children’s lives, including their daily activities when they’re in your ex’s home and being nosey. So, avoid probing for information that’s really none of your business.
When your children are with you, don’t keep them from speaking to their other parent. And when they’re with your ex-spouse, don’t hold back from keeping in contact with them. Just make sure you stay balanced and avoid taking over the other parent’s time with them.
Extend your ex-spouse the respect you’d want from them
As noted several times before, there will be things that are not within your control when your children are with their other parent. Obviously, if you become aware of something that could up them in danger, you need to address it with your ex.
Aside from that, don’t get mad about every little thing you don’t agree with. Venting your anger and criticism about your ex-spouse’s way of doing things to your children will only get them caught in the middle. Instead, show your ex the kind of respect that you would like from them in return. After all, you don’t want them to intrude into the way you handle parenting decisions either.
Helping your children cope with transition issues doesn’t just benefit them, but it benefits you (and your ex-spouse) as well. You’re asking a lot of them, and being supportive, you can help them a lot to carry that load.
If you would like professional help with co-parenting issues or handling the challenges that divorce creates for you and your children, please feel free to contact me.