Divorce and separation bring changes in lifestyle and routines. While dealing with all the changes, it’s important to focus on two key things that will never change:
Your children will need to be told and reminded of these truths over and over again. This reassurance will help them adjust to the things that will change.
A lot of the change that comes with divorce and separation involves new living arrangements. If you will be moving, it’s good to share as much as you can with the children as the details of their new living arrangements become clear.
If the new home requires a change of schools, try to wait until the beginning of a new school year so the change will be easier. But children are adaptable, so even if they have to change schools right away, they will adjust. You can help them get used to things like a new bus or walking route ahead of time. Younger children might be feel better if they visit the school playground on an evening or weekend. Most schools have web sites with photographs and other information that will help you and your children prepare.
Sometimes the children will have two homes, living part of their time with each parent. In this case, make sure the children feel at home in both places. If you can afford it, your children should keep essentials, such as toothbrushes and other grooming items, in both homes. Living out of a suitcase might make them feel they’re only visiting instead of living in their other home. Having the child talk to the other parent every day is a good routine.
Sometimes, the children will spend more time with one parent than the other. In this case, they will most probably miss the other parent. Children need a loving relationship with both parents. Reassure your children that both of you love them now and forever. You can do this with phone calls, letters, cards, photographs and emails. One of the most loving things you can do for your children is to support their relationship with the other parent.
Finances also change with separation and divorce. It is more expensive to run two households than one. Usually, divorce and separation means there is less money to spend, at least for a while. Children need to know that there may be less money for buying new things or eating out. It doesn’t have to mean less fun though. Try starting some new traditions, like a Friday night picnic instead of Friday night pizza.
Another change you might have to discuss with your children is the increased household chores they may have. Prior to the break-up, two adults shared the household chores. Explain to your children that with only one adult in the home, you’ll be asking them to help more often.
Relationships with extended family may change, temporarily or for a long time. It’s only natural that some family members will take sides. But if relatives place your children first, your children will benefit from seeing relatives more often.
Your children may also experience some positive changes. They may be relieved that any tension or fighting is reduced. By spending more time alone with each parent, they might get to know each of you better and have better relationships with you. You and your former partner might even be happier and more fun to be with. After a separation, parents often value the time they have with their children differently.
Before the divorce, you and your children knew what to expect of daily life. The changes in lifestyle brought on by the divorce will happen quickly. However, it will take a lot longer for the new way of life to feel normal. On average, it takes between one and two years for children to adapt to their new situation. Be thoughtful and careful when introducing your new partner to the children.
Your parenting skills and focusing on your children’s well-being over the next few years will help them to adapt and prosper over time. There will be progress and setbacks, but in time your family will once again have that sense of safety that comes from predictable, normal routines.