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Tips on How to Handle the Move and the Immediate Weeks After the Move

It helps children to know what to expect…

  • Once it has been decided that one parent is moving out of the family home, tell the children about this a few days to a week before moving day. Tell them that this parent will be moving and where that parent is going to live.
  • The day of the move, remind the kids that their parent is moving that day. Let them know if there are things (eg furniture, pictures, etc.) that will be going to the other house.
  • It is best if the parent moves his or her belongings while the kids are out of the house.
  • The parent who is moving should tell the children he/she will be gone to his/her new home when they return, that he/she will be fine and when he/she is coming to see them. Generally, this time together should be no more than a few days after the move for older kids and as soon as possible for younger children and children who are having a particularly difficult time coping with the divorce.
  • It is not usually a good idea for children to help a parent find a new home or to help them move out.

When children stay with the parent who moved out…

  • Leaving one parent’s home to go with the other parent can be very difficult and stressful for children. Parents can help children by doing everything possible to make going back and forth between houses as calm, predictable and low-stress as possible.
  • Do not try to talk to your ex-spouse about anything else when you drop them off or pick them up; just focus your attention on the children; be courteous and matter-of-fact to the other parent.
  • Do not ask children to carry messages or things to the other parent (such as mail, legal documents).
  • When they leave, tell them good bye and tell them you hope they have a good time–the same way you would if they were going to spend time with a grandparent, aunt or uncle; when they return, ask if they had a good time and listen to them in the same way as if they had been with a relative.
  • Do not pressure them to talk about the visit if they do not want to.
  • Reduce the number of possessions they must carry with them by duplicating or redistributing things like toys, clothes, supplies, school books; the ideal is to get to the point where there is no “suitcase.”
  • Each child needs a bed and a space of their own for their possessions. Where circumstances do not allow for the child to have a room of their own, they need to have a designated place in a closet and bureau for their things.
  • If possible, for babies and toddlers, duplicate as closely as possible the bed they sleep in and other objects that touch them intimately. For example, it is best if both parents use the same kind of diapers or sippy cups.

Favorite possessions: Children need favorite toys, music and videos with them at each house. They may ask if a certain toy can stay at Mom’s or Dad’s house. Honor their wishes whenever possible, even if a specific toy was given to them by the other parent. These are the children’s toys and having some control over where these things are will help them adjust to having two homes.

Children’s self-management: While it is to be expected that some rules may be different at each parent’s home, certain expectations for young children should be the same at both houses. These rules are particularly important when children are learning to master things like eating, sleeping and toileting. For example, if a child has been toilet trained for daytime, but wears diapers at night, it important that these routines and expectations be the same at both houses.

Communication with the other parent: In the early weeks after the separation, some young children may feel comforted by talking to their other parent on the telephone and may ask to call them. They should be allowed this kind of access for brief phone calls, even several times a day. As they become more accustomed to the new routine, the frequency of calls typically decreases, but this may take weeks or months. When your child calls you from the other parent’s house, listen and let them talk about what is on their minds, tell them you are fine. Do not prolong the conversation, just tell them to have a good time and you will see them later.

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