Divorce is a complex process. You might be feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and stuck in the middle of it all. More than that, you’re worried about how to best help your kids through it. These feelings are normal and completely understandable when going through such a significant life event as divorce. While a good family law lawyer can help you with your court paperwork, there’s one pillar of substance to learn that helps kids immensely during this time: keeping routines the same as much as possible at both homes.
New Experiences, New Environment, New Routines
Post-divorce life with both parents living separately from one another offers new challenges and experiences for everyone. Kids have had to deal with a very stressful life change at this point. A house or two has changed, bedrooms have changed, bedding has changed, and maybe even mom or dad already has a new partner. If there is daycare involved where there wasn’t previously, then there are new travel routines.
When you can’t fix or change the new routines you have, it’s even more important that, at the very least, both parents work to keep a child’s habits inside their new homes the same as much as possible. The routines you form inside the house at both homes will help the child find at least one anchor point from which they can ground themselves. Once they have this anchor point in their minds and emotions, they can begin to process their other thoughts and feelings. Any routines you do in your home should work for you and your family. Below, you’ll find suggestions to get you started.
While it’s fun to stay up on the weekends sometimes, it’s essential that the kids get to bed near the same hour at both homes on all school nights. Having the set time lets the kids know they’ll need to wrap up their nighttime activities beforehand. It also keeps their sleep rhythms the same.
Before bedtime, both parents can formulate a similar routine: homework check, bathing routines finished, teeth-brushed, and so on. Parents may want to have dinner first and then check homework and other things for one child while the others each take turns bathing. After this, family time could commence. While this may vary periodically, it’s important to cross off the needed activities before or after certain set things take place — like after dinner and before bed.
Routines can be similar in the mornings. Everyone wakes up and begins dressing. As they dress, parents can be packing lunches. Backpacks and other items for school can be placed near the door. Breakfast can be eaten. Waking up at the same time also helps keep bodily rhythms in place.
Other activities may need to happen in the morning, such as last-minute homework assignments or scrambles to find missing pieces of musical instruments. Each parent should build in extra time in the mornings for these things to avoid being late.
Agreeing on Communication
Parents should agree on how the other parent will communicate with each other and the kids while in the other home. If you’re going to call, decide on a set time of the day that calling happens. In some cases, it may be easier to text or email and make that one phone call every week or two weeks. This way, your child can anticipate when you’ll next talk.
When You Can’t Agree
Sometimes, as divorced parents, you won’t agree on the routines you should have in each other’s home, which is to be expected. It’s not required to match exactly, nor is it needed to match every night. The important thing is that the same general routines are available for the kids in both homes most of the time. If there are hard and fast things you, as parents, cannot agree on and the lack of a routine is negatively affecting your child, then attempt to put workarounds in your home to help your child. If the negative impact cannot be quelled, then speak to your family law attorney for help.