Following a divorce, children will often spend time in two home settings instead of one. Transitions are difficult for children, especially when they are young, so even the most thoughtful parenting time arrangements will require patience and understanding for your child to adjust to the change in circumstances.
During the initial period following a divorce or separation parents can help make the transition from one parent’s home to the other easier by trying a few strategies:
- Make a calendar with your child highlighting important events including visits with the other parent so they know what to expect.
- Remind kids at least a day in advance of an upcoming visit and to think about what they may be doing while there and what you will be doing when they are gone.
- Help them pick out a special bag for visits to the other parent’s home and, depending on their age, help them pack their bag the day before being sure to include a favorite stuffed animal or toy and a perhaps photograph of the absent parent.
- Basics such as grooming items, a change of clothes, and toys should be kept at both parents’ homes to reduce packing and make children feel more comfortable in both settings. Having a designated room or area to call their own and predictable routines helps kids feel secure.
- You and your ex should have a plan in place if a child wants to communicate with the other parent during initial visits to alleviate stress and give kids more control. For example, young children may look forward to talking to mom or dad during visits to the other parent’s home before heading out to the playground or other favorite activity, keeping conversations brief & upbeat.
- Children can sense whether a parent has a positive attitude regarding visits to the other parent and will carry those feeling with them when they go. Transitions are stressful for children of all ages, but knowing that you will be ok when they leave and support their relationship with the other parent will help them cope more easily.
No parent wants to put their kids through undue stress, so your and your spouse’s efforts to make the transition smooth will help your child on their way to benefiting from a good relationship with both parents. On the bright side where kids are concerned, it is not unusual for a child to receive more ‘one on one’ attention from his or her parents after a divorce because everyone is looking forward to the time they get to spend together. Post-divorce relationships can flourish for everyone involved if parents put in the time and effort to develop a special relationship with their child from the start.
What if my child refuses to visit the other parent?
Sometimes children do not want to leave to be with the other parent which is difficult for parents who worry about their child’s emotional well-being after a divorce. Reasons may include that the other parent is not actively involved or showing an interest in the child during visits, a very young child may be anxious about separating form the primary caregiver, conflict between the parents is causing a child to align one way to the other or, in rare cases, child abuse may be an issue.
The best place to start is by having a heart-to-heart discussion with your ex to come up with ideas to help your child feel more comfortable. It may be a matter of giving the child some extra TLC during visits, a change in discipline styles, or having more entertainment, toys or opportunities to make friends in the other environment. It may be that children are picking up on resentment between the parents that you and your ex can put the kibosh on. If tweens and teens are involved, flexibility may be the answer so that they can balance a busy social life with visits between parents’ homes.
Oftentimes, parents unintentionally cause a child’s refusal to go and making a few minor changes will help. However, sometimes it may be a result of one parent intentionally engaging in what is sometimes called ‘parental alienation syndrome’ to turn the child away from the other parent. In either case, if problems persist, it may be worthwhile to seek counseling either voluntarily or by court order. If you have a genuine concern for your child’s safety or believe they are being abused, it is important to raise your concerns through appropriate channels.
Contact the Libertyville, Illinois Child Custody Lawyers of Schlesinger & Strauss for Help
Children of divorce need time to adjust to the new reality. Being sensitive to your child’s feelings, keeping an open line of communication with the other parent and making adjustments as needed will go a long way in making the transition less turbulent. If you have concerns regarding Illinois parenting time or responsibilities (aka child custody), contact the Libertyville Law Offices of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC for help today.