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Three ways parents can help kids adjust to having two homes

Divorce can be hard on everyone in the family. For many kids, getting used to having two homes can be one of the toughest changes caused by divorce. Having two homes can be an emotional reminder of the shift from the way family life used to be.

Having two houses also involves practical challenges. A child may not know which address to memorize or what to tell friends who ask where he or she lives. A child may also struggle with the change in routine and wonder when he or she will see either parent. For many kids, it can be difficult to adjust to parents living apart. However, parents can help their kids cope with this change.

Keep some things consistent

As a parent, it may be tempting to reclaim your own space after going through divorce. You may want to rid your home of anything that could trigger painful memories, and you may feel ready to embrace a fresh start post-divorce. However, children thrive on consistency, and too much change can feel overwhelming to them.

You may not have control over how your ex-spouse decorates his or her house, but you may consider limiting change in your own house. If you kept the marital home, this could mean you avoid rearranging the furniture for a while. If you moved to a new house, it could mean that you incorporate familiar items throughout the home.

Maintaining consistency could also mean maintaining certain rules in both homes. Co-parenting with an ex-spouse can be difficult, especially right after divorce. However, it can be beneficial to kids when some expectations are the same in both households.

Make predictable routines

Not all your family’s pre-divorce routines will fit in your post-divorce life. There is value in maintaining old routines when possible. However, there is also value in creating new routines. Because your child will now be traveling from one home to another, it can be especially important to create routines for those transitions.

Try to always follow your visitation schedule, even when children are sick. You may also try to consistently have the parent with the children drive them to the other parent’s home. When the children arrive at your home, consider low-key activities you can do with your children, such as cooking a meal or reading a book. Transitions between homes can be emotional for children, and they may need time to adjust.

Your children may also benefit from a consistent packing list. Some items, like clothes and toothbrushes, should be kept in both homes. Other items, like comfort objects or homework, may need to travel with your children. A packing list can help prevent important items from being left behind.

Help kids feel comfortable in both homes

In addition to consistency and routines, children also adjust better when they feel they belong in both homes. One way to help ensure your children feel comfortable is by making sure they each have their own space in your home. This can mean each child has his or her own bedroom, but if that is not possible, it could also mean that each child has his or her own special chair, individual drawer or personal shelf.

If possible, allow each child to decorate his or her space. Personal touches, like a poster or night-light, can help your child feel comfortable in your home.

It may also help your children feel more relaxed in your home if you keep a calendar for them that shows when they will be with either parent. For young children, it can help to color-code the days, so it is easier to see when they will be with the other parent.

Having two homes can be a big change for kids, and it can take time for kids to adjust to it. However, as a parent, there are actions you can take to help your child through this challenging time.

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