Even though you and your ex-spouse are no longer living together, your primary job as parents is to provide your children with the stability they crave. Divorce can disrupt the lives of the entire family; however, with careful planning and co-parenting efforts, you and your former spouse can make the transition smooth for your children.
Structure and Routine
As children adjust to the emotional changes within your family, it’s important to maintain consistency with structure and routine in the household. It’s especially crucial that parents keep structure and routine the same in both homes, says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child.” Maintain the same bedtime, mealtimes, wake-up time, homework schedule and extra-curricular activities. “The more stable your child’s life and routine is," says Walfish, "the less separation anxiety he will suffer."
At any age, a child will be confused when rules differ from one household to the next. If Mom allows late-night video games yet Dad does not, children may express feelings of frustration and anger when Mom says yes and Dad says no to privileges. Keep the rules, expectations and consequences the same in both homes. “When parents are able to do this effectively, we see a reduction of acting out, angry behavior and emotional problems with children of divorced parents -- especially teens,” says Walfish.
The changes that occur as a result of divorce can make it difficult for your child to adjust, cope and heal. It’s important that your child has consistency when it comes to her educational environment. Walfish recommends that parents, if possible, avoid moving out of their child’s school district once divorced. “To lose the continuity of the same friends, teachers, campus and overall school environment could be even more traumatic for your child, who must adjust to the divorce shakeup,” she says.
A divorce not only affects your immediate family’s relationships, but also the extended family. Children may be concerned about whether or not they will see Aunt Vicki or Uncle Bob as much as they used to when their parents were married. Nurture, nourish and facilitate ongoing relationships for your child with extended family members, suggests Walfish. “When parents divorce, sometimes kids lose their cousins, aunts, and uncles on one or both sides of the family,” she says. “The more people who love and care about your kids, the less painful the divorce will be – allow your child to be loved by many people.”