At my law firm, children always come first. While we do everything within our power to protect children, there are certain matters that only the parents can handle in order to shield their children from any ramifications of their New Jersey divorce. Today I would like to share some tips on how parents may create a smooth transition once your children have ‘two homes.” Let’s explore.
When you have children, they get used to having their own room in their own home. It’s a place for them to go to unwind, relax, and feel at ease. But what happens when you and your spouse call it quits? Not only are your children confused about the divorce itself, but also now they need to change what they are accustomed to. In some cases, one parent will remain in the marital home so kids will still have their rooms to go to for comfort and to be alone. However, what happens when they have to go to their other parent’s new home? Or, even worse for kids to imagine, what happens if the marital home goes up to sale and they have to adjust to two new homes? This situation can really be overwhelming for kids, no matter what age they may be. That is why I cannot stress enough to try and make your kids feel at home in both homes. Here are a few tips that I suggest to help make your kids feel more comfortable as they adjust to living in two homes for the first time:
1. Try and make the new home feel familiar. Letting your kids have a say in how to decorate their new rooms is definitely one of the most important ways to make them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings. Let them pick out whatever paint and posters they want for the walls or a new bedroom set that fits their taste. Just letting your kids feel like they have a say will make them feel a little better about the fact that they need to adjust to having two houses now. If they have a favorite outfit or stuffed animal at their primary home, let them bring it with them to the new home so that they feel like it is a primary home as well. Recently I had a case where both parents participated in decorating their 10 year old daughter’s bedroom at her dad’s new house. I am very happy to report that this little girl’s transition was smooth as silk. When two parents work together, their children shall thrive.
2. Do not compete with your ex! I cannot stress enough how important it is to avoid parental alienation. As a reminder, parental alienation is when one parent either bad mouths the other parent to the children or tries to outdo the other parent so that the kids isolate him or her and favor only one parent. It is important that even though your kids have to adjust to a new home, which is stressful, that they still have rules like they are used to. If one parent has already said no to a child if she or he has asked to do something or go somewhere, do not be that parent to say yes and go against your ex. Also, if there is a set time that your kids do homework at their one house, keep that rule enforced at the other house. Definitely try and make your kids feel comfortable; however, that also does not mean to buy them the most expensive toys to leave at their new house so that they want to stay there more than their other house.
3. Do not blow arrivals out of proportion. When you kids arrive, even if you have not seen them in a week, try to act cool. Do not make it a huge deal every time they arrive for the night or weekend. It will only make it seem to them like coming to their new home is a special event. It is supposed to be a routine trip, a new home yet an equal home to where they primarily live.
4. Set up a packing schedule with your kids ahead of time. Sometimes it is financially impossible to have two sets of everything for your children at each of their houses upon your divorce. Therefore, even if it is only for the night, kids need to have a bag packed to bring with them to their new house. Packing an overnight bag should not be made into an event like packing for a vacation. Therefore, I recommend having a designated bag that is pre-packed this way your kids do not have to always think and worry about packing to be set for staying over with the other parent.
Please follow these tips as well as anything else you can think in order to ensure your children remain happy and healthy. Furthermore, I find that when parents see their children are thriving in their new situation, mom and dad get along much better as well. After nearly 20 years as a New Jersey family attorney, I can assure you this is wildly better than those parents who keep running back to New Jersey Family Courts because they put their own self-interests above that of their kids. Again, at the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, children come first. Thank you