I was shocked when a friend of mine said he was moving four states away after his divorce. I had so many questions. Mostly I wanted to know how he was planning on maintaining his relationship with his three children. No newly divorced parents are experts at how to help kids cope with divorce, but this kind of long-distance arrangement felt like they were making a tough situation even harder.
Divorce often means that children move to a new living situation, change schools, and have new dynamics with one or both parents. These changes have lots of implications for the kids. They’ll have to make new friends, they may not be able to see extended family as much as they’re used to, and they’ll have to create a new routine between two homes. Even under the best co-parenting arrangement, these changes are stressful for kids. And while there’s no way you can eliminate the stress that comes with having parents divorce, there are ways you can mitigate and counteract the stress of these changes. Here are 8 suggestions to make it easier on your kids.
In Your Schedule
1. Don’t over-schedule your life. Allow time and space to relax and enjoy the children, to take walks around the park, and to be together. Even though you may find it’s better for you to “keep busy” to keep your mind off the divorce, it’s best to follow that pattern when the kids are at the other parent’s house. When they’re with you, try to slow down. Take time for activities that focus on connection.
2. Make every effort to allow them to continue in their extracurricular activities: band, dance, swimming, scouting, and sports.
In Their Lifestyle
3. Keep the kids in the same school if possible, even if you have to move to accomplish that. If they do have to change schools, try to wait until the end of the school year.
4. If you do have to move, help the kids keep in touch with friends, either by arranging visits or chats online.
In Your Home
5. Keep as many “familiar” things in their environment—bedspreads, toys, etc.—as you can.
6. Make sure both houses have their essentials. You never want them to stress about having the basics, like a toothbrush, pajamas, or shoes.
In Your Conversations
7. Help them find someone to talk to: a guidance counselor at school, a children’s counselor, another trusted parent with whom your child is comfortable, a youth pastor, or a coach. Kids always need an outlet other than parents, and kids who find a caring adult who can fill that role are blessed. Those relationships often extend well into adulthood. Be intentional—find someone with whom they can air their pain and frustration.
8. Let your kids grieve—they feel it and they need to say it. Listen to them with love. Remind them that you are a family, no matter what walls you live within.Remind your kids that you are a family, no matter what walls you live within. Click To Tweet
What ideas do you have for how to help kids cope with divorce? What have you noticed is helpful in your own situation?
Taken with permission from CO-PARENTING WORKS! Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce by Tammy Daughtry. Tammy Daughtry, MMFT, is an author and the creator of the DVD One Heart, Two Homes: Co-Parenting Kids of Divorce to a Positive Future.