After making the difficult decision to separate, parents can be at a loss on how to help their children cope with the change. The upheaval in living arrangements is confusing and having one parent missing at all times can make kids feel like their world has turned upside down. Although nothing can make this process completely painless, there are ways to make the transition much easier for the entire family.
Set clear schedules
Children thrive on routine. Talk with your partner ahead of time and set a schedule that determines when each of you will have custody of the kids, and then stick to it. This may be a week on/week off arrangement, or one where they go back and forth every few days. At first, it may be very difficult for parents and their children to go more than a few days without seeing each other, so keep this in mind when planning. Sit down and explain to your kids in an age-appropriate way what is happening. Let them know when they will be with each parent, and continue to remind them on transition days that the other parent will be picking them up. Limiting the surprises will go a long way in reducing the turmoil and emotional outbursts that your children may be prone to during this time.
Keep the arguments between adults
It sounds obvious, but be sure not to have arguments in front of the children. This includes tense phone conversations that they might overhear, or mean-spirited comments about your partner to your child. Keep your tone neutral (or even friendly if possible) when referencing their other parent. Having a relatively harmonious relationship with your co-parent is one of the best things you can do for your kids. If you’re having difficulties resolving the legal issues of your separation, bring in a third party to help. A Salt Lake City Family Lawyer that is trained in these kinds of negotiations can help to relieve a lot of the tension that divorcing couples experience. A good family therapist can also help sort through feelings that children may have during this change.
Don’t underestimate the small comforts
It will be hard for everyone to adapt at first. A quick phone call to say goodnight before bedtime can help your child on days when you’re not together. Buy a stuffed animal for them to keep at their other house to snuggle with when they miss you.
You can find small ways to comfort and love your children even when you’re apart, which will reassure them that everything will be okay. They want to know that they are loved and supported above all else, so be sure to make your limited time with them count. With the right steps, you can even strengthen your relationship with your child despite the circumstances.
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