Divorce can be difficult for everyone in a family. Since it usually involves a physical separation of formerly communal living spaces, many people find that they need to relocate during or after the process. While this can be complicated or painful for adults, children could also experience struggles related to moving after divorce. Giving everyone time to adjust to the new situation can make a big difference in you and your kids’ happiness.
5 Tips to Help Your Children Cope With Moving After Divorce
1. Follow the Rules
Every state has rules that parents must follow concerning custody and other decisions like where you should move. In certain cases, your ex-spouse may be allowed some say in the choices you make, even if you are the custodial parent. Give yourself plenty of time and be sure to consult your lawyer about your rights and responsibilities before you relocate. It’s better to wait and confirm that you can carry out the move than to rush and find out that you will have to change your plans.
2. Develop Long-Distance Co-Parenting Strategies
Whether you’re intending to move across town or to the other side of the country, you’ll need to develop some co-parenting strategies to make the distance work for everyone. If you share custody throughout the week, try to iron out expectations in advance, such as who will drop the kids off at school or where you will pick up your children. Although you may need to determine definable limits of communication with your co-parent, both parties need the opportunity for free conversation with the kids. Setting schedules for daily or weekly phone calls or video chats can help keep the family connected and still feeling close.
3. Stick to Regular Routines
When you’ve been living together for years, getting moving after divorce creates big changes for everyone. Children tend to react to new, unpredictable experiences by clinging to what feels familiar. One of the best methods to provide stability is to follow your regular routines as much as you can. This means waking up at the same time, with meals and bedtime on a steady schedule. It helps kids understand that only some things are going to be different. For instance, if you have a long bedtime routine that your children cherish, it could help to maintain it as you pack and relocate. Investing this time, even if you’re exhausted and stressed, could make it easier for them to adjust.
4. Create Spaces That Feel Like Home
In many cases, divorce means that the kids will have two homes. It’s important that each child has his or her own space. Kids may have their own rooms at one place and share a room in another. Both can feel like home, even if they look and function very differently. Try to keep a few items in each location that came from your previous home. Then perhaps add a few new, exciting components, such as room décor. Encourage your children to get involved and make choices about paint colors or bedding. These little touches give them a sense of control, as well as a comfortable area to decompress and sleep.
5. Allow Time for Adjustment
Experts often praise children for being incredibly resilient, ready to adapt to new environments. However, although kids will typically find ways to be happy in an unfamiliar setting, that doesn’t mean they will always behave as they did before a significant event. As with adults, big changes can lead to mood disruptions, outbursts of frustration or anger, or other signs of stress. This is especially true for kids who leave their homes and move somewhere far away from the school, friends and other places they have known for years. Giving them space to release their emotions can help them understand that it’s acceptable and normal to have these feelings.
Divorce and moving are two major life events that come with their own stresses and complications. Going through both can be a lot of change at once for kids. By following these tips to help children cope with moving after divorce, you could reduce your own stress and help your children have an easier time adjusting in their new home.
Kate Houston is Director of Client Services at Ward North American. She attended Minot State University and has more than 25 years of experience in the transportation and relocation industry. www.wardnorthamerican.com