A lot of change comes with separation, and children are not always the most receptive to disruptions in their routine. The following tips can help parents support their children through the adjustment:
Judith Ruskay Rabinor, Ph.D., author of “Befriending Your Ex After Divorce: Making Life Better for You, Your Kids and Yes, Your Ex” suggests:
Make the new home(s) familiar.
Children will respond positively to a new environment if it’s familiar. If the child has a few favourite items, duplicate them so that they can have them in each home or have them in an overnight bag so they child can take it with them between homes. Even ordinary items like plates/cups with their favourite character or the same colour room and bed sheets as their previous home, can go a long way.
Keep dual calendars.
Both parents should have a visual calendar of the co-parenting schedule for their children to see. The calendar should have dates when the children are with parent 1 in a specific colour and parent 2 in another. It should also mention any events where both parents will be in attendance. Having a visual reference will let your child know what to expect, which will give them a sense of control over transitioning between homes.
Christina McGhee, MSW, author of “Parenting Apart” suggests:
Minimize the back and forth.
According to McGhee, each transition brings with it “settling-in time” and “adjustment time” two factors which can escalate a child’s stress level. If possible, create a custody schedule with less transitions and longer visits.
Have the same sleep routine.
Tired children are anxious children! both parents should have the same sleep routine for their children. Prior to separating both parents should have an agreement about what time children go to sleep during the school year, on weekends and during school breaks/ holidays. Having a consistent bedtime routine – especially for young kids, will reduce anxiety and keep them happy and healthy.
Use a buffer zone. If transitioning between homes makes the children upset, try transitioning at a neutral place like school, a park or restaurant. Both parents can stay with the child in the neutral space for a little bit to allow the child to adjust to leaving one parent for the other.
Read about how you can write in the terms of your transitions in a parenting plan.