Growing Up in Two Homes
by Valerie J. Botter
Growing up in two homes can be challenging for children. How can we make it easier on them?
If you see your children struggling and you think it may be schedule-related, avoid trying to change the schedule as the first solution. Instead, observe your children with as much objectivity as you can muster to see if there are ways to support them within the existing schedule. It can be challenging to change a schedule through the Court, and your emotional and financial resources are best focused on the children and not on litigation.
If your school-aged child is confused about the schedule, memorialize his parenting schedule on a calendar and teach him how to read it. I use an editable document that shows a monthly calendar on each page. Ideally you can review it with the other parent and then each of you can post it in your home. Print two copies for your child, hang one in his room, 3-hole punch the other, and help him put it in his school binder for easy reference.
If your child can be scattered and disorganized, living in two homes may be challenging. Help her learn strategies to organize her things and keep track of them as she goes back and forth. One day she’ll be a young adult who needs to fend for herself, so the skills she will learn by living in two homes will help her establish routines to serve her in the years ahead. Develop and post reminder lists of items that she needs to take back and forth between households. Create routines and a designated homework space. If possible, work with her other parent to use consistent routines in both households.
If your child spends overnights on weekdays with each parent, help him get organized and pack before a transition. School mornings are a hectic time for packing, so get organized the night before and help him create, post, and review an efficient list of what he needs to pack the next day. Provide sturdy collapsible bags for him to transport his things (reusable grocery store bags work well). See what you can do to help bring his clothes and personal items back and forth between households, so he doesn’t need to take them to school.
If your child is having some trouble making the transition to your house, give her down time after school for some light physical activity and a routine to get organized and settle into homework. Recognize that she needs time to transition to your household. Even with separated and divorced parents who get along well, it’s difficult for children to live between two households, and they need and deserve some space to adjust.
That all said, sometimes parenting schedules do need to be changed. Don’t involve young children in the discussion, and if possible, discuss with the other parent at first rather than through lawyers, although getting legal advice before you have that discussion is wise. And remember that all children face challenges growing up. Don’t let your guilt about a separation or divorce lead you to feel that you have failed them. Help them rise to the task of living in two households and support their relationship with their other parent.
Email Valerie or call 413-586-8651.