Divorce and separation bring changes in lifestyle and routines. While dealing with the many changes, it is important to focus on two key things that will never change.
Your children will need to be told and reminded of these truths over and over again. This reassurance will help them adjust to the things that will change.
Much of the change associated with divorce and separation centres on new living arrangements. If you will be moving, it is helpful to share as much as you can with the children as the details of new living arrangements become clear.
If the new home requires a change of schools, explore ways that you can delay the change until the beginning of a new school year when the transition is easier. Children are adaptable though, and even if they must change schools immediately, they will adjust. You can help them become familiar ahead of time with new bus or walking routes. Younger children might be reassured by visiting the school playground on an evening or weekend. Most schools have web sites with photographs and other information that will help you and your children prepare.
Sometimes the children have two homes, living part of their time with each parent. In this case, take care to ensure that the children feel at home in both places. If finances permit, your children should have essentials such as toothbrushes and other grooming items available in both homes. Living out of a suitcase suggests that they are visiting, rather than spending time in a second home. Having the child talk to the other parent every day is a good routine.
Sometimes, the children will spend more time with one parent than the other. In this case, they will almost certainly miss the absent parent. Children need a loving relationship with both parents. You can reassure your children that both of you love them now and forever with phone calls, letters, cards, photographs and emails. One of the most loving things you can do for your children is to support their relationship with the other parent.
Finances also change with separation and divorce. It is more expensive to run two households than one. This simple fact means that, in most cases, divorce and separation result in at least a temporary drop in disposable income. Children need to know that there may be less money for buying new things or eating out. It doesn’t need to mean less fun though. Try starting some new traditions, like a Friday night picnic instead of Friday night pizza.
Another change you may need to discuss with your children is the increased household responsibility they may face. Prior to the divorce or separation, two adults shared the household chores. Explain to your children that with only one adult in the home, you will be asking them to pitch in and help more often.
Relationships with extended family may change, temporarily or for a long time. It is natural that some family members will take sides. If there are relatives who can remain focused on the well-being of the children, your children will benefit from seeing them as often as possible.
Your children may also experience some positive changes. They may be relieved that any tension or fighting is reduced. By spending more time alone with each parent, they might get to know each of you better and have better relationships with you. You and your former partner might even be happier and more fun to be with. After a separation, parents often value the time they have with their children differently.
How long the adjustment may take
Before the separation or divorce, you and your children knew what to expect of daily life. The changes in lifestyle brought on by the separation or divorce will happen quickly. However, it will take a lot longer for the new way of life to feel normal. On average, it takes between one and two years for children to adapt to their new situation. Try to be thoughtful and reasonably cautious when introducing new partners to the children.
Your parenting skills and focus on your children’s well-being over the next few years will help them to eventually adapt and prosper. There will be progress and setbacks, but in time your family will once again have that sense of safety that comes from predictable, normal routines.