There’s nothing easy about divorce, especially when children are involved. Even if you experienced divorce in some capacity in your own childhood, that doesn’t mean you automatically know exactly what to do and what to say to your child to make them feel better about the situation.
Among the many decisions you’ll make while going through a divorce is determining where your child will live. Will they live primarily with one parent, or will they live between two houses for a while? It’s important to thoroughly think through this decision of creating a second home for your child, and talk it over with your family since it will help cement a new routine in your child’s life during this difficult time.
Is a second home what’s best for a child of divorced parents?
With emotions at an all-time high and much to consider during a divorce, trying to figure out what’s best for your child can be overwhelming. The truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when determining a new living arrangement for you and your child.
It’s true that creating a second home for children to go back and forth between is one of the most common options among divorced or separated parents due to shared custody, work schedules, and other factors. But this is a big decision, and it’s important to consider your own family’s needs first. Talk it over with your family, your ex-spouse, and your child to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
How do I transition my child from one house to another?
If you decide that creating a second home for your child after your divorce is best for your family, it can be tough to know where to start. Whether the new living situation is permanent or temporary, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind along the way:
1. Talk it out
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to set expectations and prepare your child for their new bonus home as best as possible. Open the lines of communication with your child: Sharing your honest feelings about your move can be helpful for your child to see that they’re not the only ones feeling all kinds of emotions. Depending on their age, you can be more or less transparent.
Talking through these emotions together promotes a healthy emotional environment for your child and helps you both face them head-on.
2. Duplicate favorite toys or items
It may seem silly or frivolous to buy two of everything, but it can be incredibly helpful for specific items. Duplicating easy things like books, stuffed animals, toys, school supplies, and even clothing items can help your child feel less pressure to remember everything when packing for their second home. It can also prevent unnecessary stress and emotional meltdowns if they’re accidentally forgotten.
3. Communicate with your ex
Throughout the move-in process and beyond, it’s important to maintain your position as a parent to your child. That means communicating directly with your spouse regarding any adult topics your child doesn’t need to be involved in.
It can be tough if you and your spouse no longer get along, but don’t ask your child to act as a go-between or relay information to their other parent. Approach each situation maturely to help alleviate unnecessary stress as your child heads off to their second home.
4. Keep moving day low-stress
Moving day can be understandably difficult and stressful when you’re going through a divorce. After all, it’s not easy to stay calm as a parent while facing many emotions of your own.
Consider having a friend or family member babysit your child during a portion or the entirety of your move to allow you to process the day without your child present. If this isn’t possible, be as proactive as you can in the days beforehand by creating a schedule, discussing your feelings with a friend, and setting your child’s expectations for the day ahead. Offering to take your child out for a treat after you finish moving can also be a way to keep them focused and give them something to look forward to throughout this tough day.
Related: How to Keep Kids Busy on Moving Day
5. Let your child set up their new room
If they’re old enough, consider letting your child own the responsibility of unpacking, setting up, and decorating their new space. Not only does it take a few things off your plate, but it can also help your child feel a small sense of independence and agency in an inherently overwhelming situation out of their control. You can guide them along the way and encourage them to get excited about creating a new space that’s entirely their own.
6. Create a new routine
Divorce can feel like both the parents’ and the child’s lives are flipped upside down. Creating a new routine for your home can help you and your child feel more comfortable and settled in. This can include homework, dinnertime, and free time during the week or schedule some chores and family time on the weekends. Stability is important for children, and over time, a solid routine will help your child feel like they know what to expect out of each day.
7. Tie in a daily cleaning schedule to your new routine
We know that as you’re packing, unpacking, and setting up your new home, cleaning might be the last thing on your mind right now. But keeping your new home clean will also benefit you and your child, so be sure to build a cleaning schedule into your routine.
Feeling overwhelmed with cleaning after moving into a new home? Try breaking larger tasks like “tidy the kitchen” into smaller tasks like “wash the dishes.” Maybe you can even “divide and conquer” with your child, making the task of cleaning feel more like a team effort.
8. Declutter your space
Before, during, and after you’ve moved into your new home, spend some time decluttering and donating unused items to a local charitable organization. This win is two-fold: your home is only filled with the things you need, and you get the satisfaction of giving back to your community.
You can also get your child involved in the decluttering and donation process, too. Ask them to go through their toys, books, or closet and pick out a few things they no longer use. Explaining that these items will be passed on to other children can make your child feel good about parting ways with their old belongings and teach them to be generous and give back to others.
9. Take some new family photos
We all love a good photoshoot! Grab your camera and take pictures of your child to hang around your new home, or hire a photographer to help update the family portraits. This can help solidify this new life change for your family in a fun, playful way.
10. Ask your child about their second home
Even if your divorce was particularly tough and there’s still lingering hard feelings between you and your ex, it’s important to show your child you care about their second home. This can be as simple as asking your child how the decorating and moving process is going, what paint color they chose for their new room, or how they feel about it all.
Your child may not bring up anything about your ex or their second home because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings. But showing a genuine interest in their new home signals to your child that it’s okay to talk about that part of their life with you, and can help them feel more comfortable with the divorce as a whole.
11. Remember that change takes time
Lastly, your family will need time to adjust to their new surroundings, location, and routine. Try not to rush things, and remember that this is a big change in your child’s life as well as your own. If your child is feeling emotional about their new home or the divorce in general, keep the lines of communication open and listen to their concerns objectively as best as you can.
Navigating Two Homes for Your Child After Divorce
If divorce is something you’ve never experienced in your life, getting the hang of your child living between two houses can be tricky. But as long as you remember to communicate, practice patience, and put your child first, you’ll be on the right track to keeping your family as happy and healthy as possible during this difficult time.
For more resources on moving out due to divorce, check out our Divorce Moving Out Checklist: How to Move Out to Move On.