Growing Up in Two Homes

Growing up in two homes can be challenging for children. How can we make it easier on them?

If you see your child struggling and you think it may be schedule-related, pause on changing the parenting schedule as a first and only solution. Instead, observe your child with as much objectivity as you can muster to find ways to support them within the current schedule. If your child’s other parent is receptive, meet up to talk it over with or without the assistance of an experienced co-parenting mediator.

If your school-aged child is confused about the schedule, apply his parenting schedule to 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 copies for your child, it’s a good teaching tool for using a calendar and time management.

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 help her 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 the transition. School mornings are a hectic time for packing, so get organized the night before and help him make an efficient list of what he needs to pack and when. Provide sturdy collapsible bags for him to transport his things. 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, children need time to adjust after a transition.

That all said, sometimes parenting schedules do need to be changed. Don’t involve your child in the discussion before addressing the topic with the other parent first in a civil and supportive forum. And remember that all children face challenges growing up. Don’t focus on guilt you may feel about a separation or divorce. Help your child rise to the task of living in two households and support his relationship with his other parent.

October 2014