Families Change
Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What about our living situation?

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One of the biggest things that a divorce can change is your living situation. If you will be moving:

  • Tell your children.
  • Keep them up to date when you learn new details, like when or where you are moving.
  • Try to put it off until the next school year if moving will mean changing schools.

Stay positive if your children do have to change schools in the middle of the year. It might be harder, but they will be able to adjust.

To help your kids adjust to a new school you can:

  • show them new bus or walking routes.
  • visit their new school.
  • go to the school playground on an evening or weekend.
  • look at pictures and information on the school website.

Your kids might have two homes. They could live part of their time with you and part of the time with their other parent. If this is your situation, make sure they feel at home in both places. If you can afford it, your children should have important things like toothbrushes and clothes in both homes. Living out of a suitcase is more like visiting than living in two homes. It is also a good habit to have your children talk to their other parent frequently when they are living with you.

Your children might spend more time with you or with their other parent. It is normal for children to miss the parent they spend less time with. Children need both of their parents. You can let them know that you love them by calling, sending letters, cards, pictures, texts and emails. You can use Skype, Hangout or other free software to meet online. One of the most loving things you can do for your children is to support their relationship with their other parent.


What about changes in how we live?

Typically, it is more expensive to support two households.  Tell your children that there may be less money for buying new things or eating out. This doesn’t mean that you have less fun! Try starting some new traditions, like a Friday night picnic instead of Friday night pizza.

You might also need to talk with your children about chores. Let them know that since there’s only one adult in the home, you might be asking them to pitch in and help more often.

Your relationships with your former in-laws and extended family might change. It is normal for some family members to take sides.  Make sure your children get to see any relatives who want to be a part of their lives. These relatives can help your children get used to the changes. NOTE: If this poses safety issues, see "What should I do if my children are being abused?”


Will any of the changes be good?

Your children might see some things change for the better! They might feel happy that you aren’t always upset or fighting with their other parent. You and your children might develop a better relationship because you’re spending more time just with each other. You and your former partner might both be happier and more fun to be with. You may appreciate the time you spend with your children more after your divorce.


How long will the adjustments take?

Before the divorce, you and your children knew what to expect of daily life. Once you divorce, the changes will happen fast. It will take a while for all the changes to feel normal. It may take one or two years for children to adapt to their new situation. Think about your children’s feelings if you introduce any other changes, like a new partner.

You will help your children get through all of these changes, and they will be OK. Things won’t always be perfect, but after a while, things will get much easier.


How can I help my children handle the changes?

A lot of children have a hard time adjusting when their families change. When you get divorced, your children are dealing with a lot!

  • Not seeing one parent every day.
  • Telling their friends about their parents splitting up.
  • Going back and forth between two homes.

You can help:

  • When you know a change is definitely coming, talk about the change before it happens.
  • Finding ways for your children to have input in planning for some of the changes.
  • Not changing things (like discipline and bedtimes) that don’t have to change.

When you don’t know what is going to happen, it’s easy to imagine the worst. By talking about what might change, you can help your children adjust. Read the list of what might change in the Teen Guide to get ready for these conversations.

You can do other things to help make these changes easier for your kids:

  • Make sure they keep their normal clubs, lessons or sports.
  • Keep your promises. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.
  • Keep the same rules. Changing or relaxing rules now will just be confusing.
  • Don’t try to buy their love. Extra money, treats, and shopping trips won’t help.
  • Talk about the things that won’t change.
  • Be patient with your kids.
  • Let them know how much you love them.
  • Talk to your family doctor or local health center if your kids are having a really hard time adjusting.

Read “What should I do as a parent?” for more information.