After the parenting time plan is drawn up, how can you help your child adapt to living in two homes?
At a minimum, divorce actions are jarring for anyone involved. Divorce can be a conflicting, confusing time of life for any family. While the action is focused on communications between the parents, children watch and are often bewildered by how the fallout impacts their lives.
A primary decision made during divorce is custodial arrangements for children—who will provide residential care and support to your children? Today, many courts in Maryland and across the country favor significant parenting time with both parents, along the lines of 50/50, if there are not compelling reasons why it should be otherwise.
For parents and children, a change to two homes is a big one. If one parent remains in the marital home, the other parent must find a residence that is reasonably distanced to make parenting time and school transitions easier.
Both parents have to accept that although they are full-time parents, they will see and experience their children part-time for the remainder of their childhood. Nonetheless, a parenting time plan that is carefully structured, respected, and carried out helps children and parents (and extended family) maintain close relationships.
For children, they may be walking out of the only home they have ever known to a new house—called “Mom’s house,” or “Dad’s house.” Here are some tips for helping your children adapt and consider each space in which they live as “home:”
- Make it easy: Keep your children in the loop when a decision has been made about parenting time. Characterize a transition to two homes as the next step in a process that will provide opportunity as well as continuation of the stability they have known in the past.
- Give it thought: Regardless of conflicts between you and your ex, work to build your co-parenting relationship after divorce. If at all possible, coordinate with your partner to develop best practices for pick-up and drop-off, discuss and decide on rules and schedules that will be maintained in both homes, and set a common goal of raising happy, healthy children. Consistency of parenting across households is a big factor in maintaining the emotional health of your children.
- Some similarities, some differences: Be sure both households have common items, like hygiene, basic wardrobe, and items that are easier to duplicate than go back and forth. Work with your child to create their new bedroom or living space, and obtain dedicated duffels so that your child has a go-bag that travels between homes.
- Transitions: Be clear that transitions are the toughest part of any parenting time plan. The more stable the living conditions in each home, the easier transitions between each household will be. If parents are competitive, or denigrate the other parent, it will backfire and usually show up first with difficulty in transitioning between houses. Keep the peace for the sake of your children.
- Traditions: At holidays and other times of the year, be careful to recall family traditions. Keep some and revise some to let your children understand that good things last, even as situations change.
The life experience of your children is as important as that which you create for yourself. Childhood is an important time to be free, curious and energetic. Respect these qualities in your children, support them, and do not steal this precious time in their lives through petty battles and popularity contests with your co-parent. Your children, when they are grown, will thank you for it.
Speak with a skilled Baltimore divorce attorney
When you need supportive, knowledgeable legal guidance during separation or divorce in Maryland, we can help. Focused on divorce, child custody, and family law, the Law Offices of Allyson B. Goldscher, LLC works with individuals and families in Baltimore and Baltimore County. Contact us when you have questions about divorce, or call 410-602-9522 to schedule an appointment.