Going through a divorce requires many adjustments. One of the biggest adjustments for children is having two homes. In my 30 year career as a psychologist and my new career as a real estate associate, I have found the following suggestions to be very effective.
Location is important when purchasing a new home, or in some cases, two new homes. If possible, having the two homes close to each other is ideal. Although this can be difficult for parents, it is really important to children. If they can walk between the homes, that is even better. If this won’t work, then a short drive between homes is the next best. If the homes can be in the same community, especially in the same school designated area, this can work very well. One of the things kids can lose through divorce, is the ability to share their day to day lives with both parents. When kids talk about the playground, friend’s homes, the convenience store, they want both parents to know exactly what they mean. This keeps the connection with both parents strong and builds security.
Deciding what toys, clothes, sports equipment, video game systems, etc. go with what house is tricky. Sometimes the space available or layout of the house can determine what goes where. Parents need to be honest with each other about what is reasonable for each home. Don’t refuse to have certain things, just because you don’t like the activity. Think about the importance of the item or activity to your children. Kids like labels, so one house might be designated as the “hockey net” house and the other, the “craft” house. Kids love structure, especially at times of change. Separating out belongings into categories can help, such as, “stay put”, “at both homes” or “move anytime between homes”. Ask for kids input and accommodate when possible. If it can’t be accommodated, try and come up with an alternative solution. When kids see their parents stressed and upset, they don’t always speak up, so it is important that parents ask kids what they think.
Setting up the child’s room, as a place where they belong at both homes, is really important. Even if they have to share a room at one home, work hard at making that space uniquely theirs. Again, having things that are part of the child’s everyday life, in both homes is crucial. Hanging up their art, posters they like or keeping stuffed animals or other things they are attached to, are good ideas. Never have a child located in the “spare room”. This makes kids feel unwanted and unattached to that parent. Toiletries they use and like, need to be at both houses. This really states that they live there.
Get your kids to have their friends over to both homes. Make the visits fun and very kid friendly. Good snacks are the best incentive to have kids come back. If there is a family pet, and the pet can move with the kids, that’s great. If this won’t work, try and have a pet at both homes. Even fish count! Don’t ever argue about what goes with what house, within earshot of children. Frustration about lugging things from one home to the other is not for kid’s ears. If it is truly a big issue, approach it as any other problem: one that can be solved. Kids can so easily feel like a burden in the divorce process, so don’t let the location of their belongings add to this pressure.
Most of all, make the new house a home. Transfer as many positives from the previous home as you can. If there were certain furniture arrangements that the kids loved, do that in the new home. Keep routines around activities in the home in place and create a special new routine activity that suits the new setting. Emphasize the positives about the new place. When the family home is sold and two new homes are purchased, kids need to say “Goodbye” to the original home. Refer to my article “Helping Kids Move” for helpful tips. Remember, when you are positive, your kids will follow!
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