The process of accepting the changes brought on by a couple of signed divorce papers is devastating, to say the least. However, with children in the mix, you are bound to put most of your feelings aside to help your little ones face the shocking and confusing fact that their life will never again be as it was before. The central question of such a divorce is, of course, custody. There are various post-divorce living arrangements, and each one will change both your and your kids' lifestyles, making parenting an even more significant challenge. But, if you opt for shared custody, finding a way to help your child get comfortable in two homes will be crucial.
If you and your former spouse agree to share custody, you will need to find a way to help your child get comfortable in two homes.
It begins with you
Before anything else, helping your kid adjust to rotating between mom's and dad's starts with a bit of adjusting of your own. Even with all of your efforts, you shouldn't demand of these kinds of situations to go perfectly smoothly, as it will most probably not. Expect both good and bad days along the road, but you mustn't let the latter discourage you. Separation is tough for everyone, and the focus on the trouble of being on your own will come later. Right now, maintaining a positive attitude is a must if you wish to help your child get comfortable in two homes.
Communication needs to be on point
Kids cannot possibly fantom why anyone would leave a place as safe and happy as their family home. For this reason, they will have a lot of questions that will need answering. Of course, how you approach the conversation will depend mainly on their age. But key points to discuss will be about what's going to happen, when, and how it will all work. Explain to them that your love for them is as big as ever, that, even though things will be a bit different, you will still remain a family, and that both them and mom and dad will be safe. Show empathy and consideration for their needs and desires. What is more, ask them what it is they need and want. And if there's a question you don't have an answer for, be honest about that as well.
There’s no room for hostility
Finding common ground amid divorce is never easy, even in an amicable one. However, to create a healthy and safe environment in both homes, you will need to find a way to:
Resist your urge to compete with each other and, along the way, demean the co-parent’s rules, decisions, and parenting style. This will, in no way, help your child get comfortable in either of their two homes. Instead, give it your best to work as a team.
Refrain from asking your child to spy on their other parent, be a tattletale or a messenger, because the only thing you’ll allow into both homes is toxicity and additional stress your child doesn’t need.
Cooperate and establish some ground rules on which both of you can agree on, so you can successfully avoid any conflicts. For instance, not asking one parent for something if the other has already disapproved that same request.
A parental tug of war benefits no one. Refrain from competing and pointing fingers as such surroundings may very quickly become toxic for your baby.
Minimize the novelty
To help your kid be comfy in both homes while switching back and forth, you kill the newness. Drastic change and novelty bring that unpleasant feeling of insecurity in a child, and no parent would have it in them to let that feeling prevail, especially in their child's sleeping space. Even if the divorce has cost you a bundle, it's no excuse – there are always ways to transform your kid's room without breaking the bank.
For this reason, you should try your best to duplicate the items, both necessities and things they adore, in both homes. As for essentials, each house should have in stock its own toiletries, pajamas, clothes, and amusement supplies such as books, toys, craft material, CDs, etc. Next, their favorite toy, blanket, a night lamp they're used to seeing on their night table should be in the new home as well. If your kid wants a particular piece of furniture in their second home, grant his/her wishes if you can. You can even include the co-parent as well. For instance, they can help disassembling it and putting it back together in the new home, or you can opt for professional help in with this part if you don't want to risk injuries.
You can't help your child get comfortable in two homes without a proper plan
To properly divide up time between parents, you need to devise a co-parenting schedule. Work together to make a customized schedule that fits both your and your child's life, as it will make navigating the divorce with shared custody much easier. Secondly, with a clear image of when and how much time your child spends with each parent, you will be able to make a visible reminder for your child - a calendar that will help your kid's confusion and discomfort when shuttling back and forth between two homes. Mark mom's days in one color, and dad's time in a different one, and stick one copy on the fridge in both houses.
Make duplicates of essentials as well as your child’s favorite items and have them at hand in both houses.
Your child should have a say in the matter
Including your child in the process of furnishing and decorating their second home bedroom shows them both that their opinion matters and that this can be fun to some extent. Letting them decide what to throw away, add and change before they move, such as the new wall paint, some cool new wall stickers, or a carpet with their favorite cartoon character on it, will help them feel like they are being listened to. Secondly, they will have a great time doing it, and it will automatically enable the child to get comfortable in both homes and used to the idea of having two of them in the first place.
Practice similar routines in both homes
Maintaining that necessary stability will require that children have familiar routines in both houses. This includes their meals, baths and bedtime, chores and homework, as well as TV time and playtime. Although they don't have to be identical, simply having similar patterns in two different homes will help your child get more comfortable.