Growing up is certain to bring about changes in a child’s life. When parents decide to separate, it can be difficult for children to adjust to the idea of having two places to call home. Even for the most well adjusted of children, switching from home to home has the potential to create quite a bit of emotional stress.
The uncertainty of what the future holds can be extremely distressing for children. They might wonder, ‘Where will my stuff go? What can I bring? What will change?’
The answers to these questions might seem obvious to you and your co-parent, but are very confusing for children. The most important question you can answer is ‘Will they be ok?’ Luckily, there are many ways for you to say ‘yes’ every time.
Here Are 6 Essentials Children Need To Thrive In Two Separate Homes:
1. Boundaries With Co-Parent
After you and your ex separate, figuring out how to co-parent can lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and other complications between the two of you. This can result in hurting your co-parenting relationship, and ultimately hurting your child’s relationship with their parents. It is crucial you compartmentalize these issues with your ex in order to make your child feel safe between each of your homes.
This means never using your child as a pawn or bargaining chip in your conflicts with your ex. Involving your child in conversations about co-parenting may make them feel burdened, and it is unfair for them to have to carry the weight of adult problems.
Setting boundaries will help your child understand that their safety and security is a priority, no matter whose home they are in.
2. Unconditional Love
To love unconditionally means that parents accept their children for who they are. When you show your child unconditional love, they are more likely to adjust to having two homes because they know that they are valued and respected by both parents. If your home is a place where love is given based on merit, your child could feel unsafe, thus hurting your relationship with them.
Unconditional love does not mean having zero standards for your child, but balancing these values with affection will help your child understand that each parent’s home is a warm, welcoming place.
3. Listen To Their Feelings
Talking and listening to your child helps develop a bond and a sense of trust between the two of you. It is important to give your child attention and validate their thoughts. It takes some patience, but actively listening will benefit your child’s social and emotional development.
When your child is expressing their feelings, try:
Placing yourself in your child’s shoes, imagine how you would feel in the same situation your child is in.
Being fully present, mentally and physically. Let your child know they have your undivided attention.
Being aware of body language and anything your child is trying to communicate nonverbally.
Having an open mind. Try not to make judgements or dismiss your child’s feelings.
Having parents who listen can positively impact your child’s self-esteem. This will show them that they are worthy of time and attention from both parents.
4. Quality Engagement Time
Spending quality time with your child can result in them feeling more settled, secure, and confident. Setting aside time out of your busy schedule is not always easy and can take a bit of planning, but the benefits of quality time make it worth it.
When there is harmony between parent and child, it moves throughout the home and creates a loving environment. Most importantly, spending time with your child gives them a heightened sense of security and belonging. As they grow up, they will be more willing to talk and share their feelings with you if they have this platform early on.
5. Consistent Schedule
Consistency means your child knows what to expect and when to expect it. This is important as they transition between homes because it provides them with stability. Children thrive on routines. The unknown is challenging enough for adults but is even more so for children who are still getting used to their environment.
It can be overwhelming to have two separate homes. Your child may feel like their life has been disrupted by these changes. However, there are ways to help your child get used to their new life. For example, you can create a schedule that is consistent with both homes. Outline goals for the day, expectations, and be prepared to talk through any changes. Many children need time to mentally prepare for a change. With consistent schedules, they can develop independence and have a visual reminder of what each day will bring.
6. Recognize Their Uniqueness
No two children are alike. Each child has their own strengths, weaknesses, and personality. It is important to understand and embrace your child for the unique individual they are.
You can encourage your child’s uniqueness by:
Allowing them to choose their own extracurricular activity. Your child has their own unique gifts. By allowing them to branch out, your child can find an activity that suits them.
Teaching body autonomy. When possible, letting them explore what they eat, how they dress, and who they interact with promotes both personal safety and positive self-expression.
Embracing their differences. As difficult as it seems to shift from what is deemed “normal,” it is important to show your child that they are accepted no matter who they are.
Above all, your child needs to know that they are safe, valued, and loved by both of their parents - regardless of which home they are in.
With these 6 tips, you can help your child thrive as they grow up in two separate homes.