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4 Tips for helping kids cope with separate homes

Children dislike disruption in their lives, though in the event of a divorce or parental separation, such disruptions can't be avoided. Such an event can leave them feeling uncertain and stressed because it means that they must adjust to life in two separate households.

If you are in this type of situation, there are steps you can take to make this transition easier for your kids.

1. Maintain the familiar

Change can be very upsetting to children. If you are the parent who is moving out and setting up house in a new place, make the atmosphere as welcoming and as familiar as possible for your children. Take stock of their favorite things and duplicate some of them. Even ordinary things matter: character-themed dishes, bubble bath, favorite movies, night lights, pillows, books, stuffed animals, toys, etc.

You should also try to reduce the number of items that your kids have to pack. Remember that this is their home too, so be sure to stock the bathroom with toothbrushes, hair brushes, toothpaste, soap and even their own towels. Make it a fun outing to shop for pajamas and other necessities that will be kept in your home.

2. Set rules

You and your child's other parent can help the adjustment to the new status quo by setting down a few rules that should be followed in both households. This lets them know what both of you are going to expect of them and should include the following:

  • If you or the other parent says no to a request, that decision stands. Children should not run to the other parent in an attempt to get whatever they want.
  • Homework should be started within a certain timeframe after school so that you can enjoy your evenings together.
  • Children should follow the rules at each parent's house.
  • Post the rules in each house. This lets the children know that even though you and the other parent no longer live with one another, you still employ your parenting skills as a team.

3. It's their home too

Allow your children to have reasonable say about the look and feel of their new environment. Let them help in decorating their own spaces in the new home to express their own personalities. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage their opinions and suggestions. The more input they have, the sooner they will become comfortable with this new chapter in their lives.

4. Handle the "other parent" situation responsibly

Resist pressing your children for information about your ex-spouse when they are with you. You may have to exercise forbearance if the children go on and on about the joys of life in the other house. Concentrate on life in your house, not in the sense of competing with your ex. Focus on helping your children become comfortable with the part of their dual life that you control.

If disputes do arise between you and your ex, it's important to keep the children out of it. Therefore, you should take your concerns to a knowledgeable attorney who can help you explore your options.