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5 tips to help children feel at home in both homes

View profile for Louise Jones
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Divorce will always be tough for the children caught in the middle, no matter how amicable the split. After all, transitions are difficult for adults, let alone children.

If you’ve ever stayed the night at a friend's house for the first time, you’ll understand the slight discomfort of making yourself at home in someone else’s home (What time is it acceptable to wake up? What kind of breakfast food do they have? Can I use the toilet in the night?). So, if you and your partner have decided to live in separate houses, the best thing you can do for your children is to make them feel at home in both spaces.

Our family solicitors have come together to provide some tips on how to do this. If you have any to add from experience, we’d love to hear. Just post in the comment section below.

1. Give your child their own space

For a child, a bedroom is the most important part of a home. It’s a personal space where they can escape from adults, where there are no rules and no limitations; it’s their own little world where they can feel comfortable. If you have moved from the family home to a new location following the divorce, having a room for your child to call their own when they are staying with you is essential. If you are able to provide a bedroom, talk to your child about how they would like it decorated. This could become a project that you work together on; creating the perfect space that feels right for your child.

If you simply do not have the space, try to at least provide a place they can call their own. A cupboard for their toys or even a wall for their photos is a nice little touch to make them feel more at home.

2. Create a routine

One of the many aspects of divorce that troubles a child is the disruption to routine. Children need structure, so when parental separation threatens this, it’s important that both you and your ex-partner work to maintain a strong routine. Your child should know who will take them to school in the morning and pick them up afterwards, who will make their dinner and who will tuck them in at night. If you have different opinions to the other parent on how things should be done, make sure that you are clear with your child about the rules in your home and keep things as predictable as possible. Eventually, your child or children will get used to the differences.

3. Plan activities

Divorce is an emotionally challenging time for a child, and it’s not something that they will recover from in a matter of days. For that reason, it’s important to plan fun activities that take their mind off the matter when they’re staying with you. This means they will associate being in your home with fun, rather than with the divorce itself. These activities need not cost money, just time. Making extra effort to spend quality time engaging in activities such as arts and crafts, football in the garden or even just working on a project together will help to make your child feel comfortable and reassure them that they can still have fun with both parents.  

4. Listening is key

If your child still feels uncomfortable despite your efforts, don’t lose hope. This is a confusing time for them, so communication is key in moving forward and making them feel at home. Moving between two homes will always be difficult for a child, so ask them what is bothering them and how you can improve their environment. You may need to talk to your former partner about arrangements if changes need to be made to suit the needs of your child.

5. Ensure both homes are child-friendly

As well as providing your child with a space of their own within each home, it’s absolutely essential to ensure both homes are child-friendly. The adult world can look scary through the eyes of a child, and a little organisation can help to make them feel at ease. If you have moved out of the family home, make sure to keep a drawer with some basic “homely” items for your child: pyjamas, toiletries and toys will all help to make your child more comfortable and secure knowing they have what they need without having a travel bag. As well as this, try to keep your home clutter-free. Though children are notoriously messy, adults are not – especially in a child’s eyes. Having an untidy home will symbolise a lack of control and security, and this will only make your child feel uneasy and uncomfortable in your home.

Talbots’ Top Tip:

Never use your child as the messenger. If you and your partner did not end your marriage on good terms, ensure you communicate in a civilised manner around your child. Parental acrimony can be distressing for children and they should not have to deal with your disputes. If you need to communicate with the other parent, speak to them directly rather than involving your child.

 

For more tips on helping your child to cope with divorce, get in touch with our dedicated family law solicitors today.

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