Divorce can be a stressful process for the whole family. However, young children often have a limited understanding of what divorce is, so some of the changes caused by divorce can be shocking and traumatic for them. Often, one of the most difficult parts of divorce for children is when a parent moves out of the marital home. However, there are actions you can take to help ease the transition.
Tell your child ahead of time
It is important that your children do not feel abandoned when you move out. To help avoid this, do not sneak out or leave without notice. Toddlers and preschoolers should be told of your plans to move out a few days before you plan to leave. However, school-aged children may need a few weeks to get used to the idea. With both age groups it can be helpful to have a set date in mind, mark the date on a calendar they can see and remind them occasionally that this change is coming up. Although your children may already know about your divorce, plan to answer any new questions that they may have regarding your move.
Allow your child to visit the new home
If possible, take your children to visit your new house or apartment. Seeing where you will live can help children process the news of your move, making the situation feel more real. Seeing their future bedrooms may also help them picture what it might be like to stay with you at your new house, possibly alleviating concerns that they may not see you again.
Be sensitive to your child’s feelings
Although it is important for your children to be warned about your move, it can be emotional for them to watch you pack up your possessions. Additionally, the packing process often leads to arguments between parents regarding who will keep which items. If you think your children will struggle with this, you may consider sparing them the stress of that situation by arranging for them to spend the day with someone else. However, some children are better off seeing the process rather than being surprised to find half of their home packed up. Ultimately, you should be sensitive to your children’s feelings and try to choose the option that you believe will be easier for your children to cope with.
When it is time to move out, be sure to say goodbye to your children, and make a plan for the next time you will see them. Talk with your ex-spouse about incorporating calendars in both homes that mark the custody schedule, so your children can always know when they will see either parent.
Make sure your child is comfortable in both homes
Once you move out, it is important to make sure your children feel comfortable in both homes. In your new home, consider inviting your children to help you unpack and decorate the home. If possible, incorporate a combination of new and familiar items throughout the house, so your children do not become overwhelmed with too much change at once. You can also establish routines for the times your child transitions from one parent’s care to another. This may include packing routines, departure routines and arrival routines.
Moving out and adjusting to a new custody routine will be a big change for you and your children. However, as a parent, you can take steps to help your children better cope with these changes.