Divorced? 7 Things the Kids Need in Your New Home
“Where will I live?” is often the first question people ask themselves after a separation or divorce. And the first place you land may not be your forever home. As your finances and other details get sorted, you’ll still need a place to call home. (Unless you’re one of those couples who is miraculously able to share a home after a separation. Kudos to you! And how do you do it?) Will you buy a house? Rent? Have a roommate? And how will you make your new house a home?
When you move into your new house, you’ll want to feel at home. After all, you’re already experiencing plenty of stress and change, so your home needs to be a haven. If you have kids, you’ll want to make it a place where they can feel comfortable, too.
Here are a few ways to make your new place a home for the kids:
1. Stock the kitchen with the usual food.
Are frozen waffles the norm for breakfast? No matter how much you may want to treat them, now is not the time to start making them from scratch. Stick with the same brand of milk (even if it did infuriate you that your ex-refused to buy organic), buy the same fruit they’re used to seeing (and get a similar bowl to keep it in), and make sure you have all the usual after-school snacks. Some change is okay. If Monday was meatloaf night, and you don’t know how to make it, Monday can also be a great night for chicken wings or takeout. You have years to make changes. Now is not the time.
2. Give the kids some space.
You may be in a smaller space, and they may have to share a room or bathroom when they’re used to having one all to themselves. If they have to share, set boundaries. No busting into the bathroom. No interrupting or playing loud music during homework time. Speaking of loud music, a smaller space can necessitate headphones. Make sure they have room to do what they’re used to doing. If your new apartment doesn’t have a big yard for playing, explore nearby parks.
3. Get extra basics.
The kids shouldn’t have to worry about bringing shampoo or toothbrushes every time they come to your house. It’s their home, too. Let them keep clothes there, so they don’t always have to bring a full wardrobe. (But do not become one of those parents who gets mad when something you bought for the kids ends up at your ex’s place. You bought it for the kids, not yourself. Not to scold, but there really is no excuse for showing anger about this one.)
4. Speaking of your ex, don’t compare your two homes, and discourage your kids from doing it.
“But Mom has a huge television. Yours is so small!” “Yeah, her tv is great. What have you been watching these days?” You want them to feel at home, but you also can’t recreate your old home, and you shouldn’t try. Let the kids express some frustration, but don’t always try to fix it.
5. Make sure they know the address, the name of your new neighborhood, and some nearby favorites.
When the kids at school ask, “Where does your dad live?” they’ll feel more relaxed if they have a ready answer. Also, if you quickly locate the best nearby pizza place, they’ll be a lot happier to hang with you on a busy night when you can't cook or the weekend. Introduce them to the neighbors, and let them feel like they’re a part of the community, even if that community is only a mile from your old place.
6. Let them have some say in how their new room is decorated, but don’t get too excited about it.
There are times when too many choices can overwhelm kids, and they need you to be the parent. Did they get to choose the furniture in the home you shared with your spouse? No? Buy what you can afford, and let them choose things like what posters to hang.
7. Discuss transition time with your ex before the big day, and stick to a routine.
Establish when and how the kids will get to each place, and what they should bring. If you and your ex can handle the handoff with calm confidence, your children will really benefit from your example.
Change is tough, and kids have less say in changes than the adults do. With a little effort, you can make the transition easier. And on those days when it’s just not going well? Hug, them, let them know you love them, and spring for their favorite dinner.