Many divorcing parents have said that the toughest conversation they've had to have with their child was when they announced they were getting a divorce. When children hear the word "divorce," you can expect an avalanche of emotions, followed by a barrage of questions. One of the first questions tends to be, "Where am I going to live?" Because children have spent their whole lives living in the same house as both parents, it can be an emotional struggle when one parent moves out.
Whether you're the parent who is staying or going, you're worried about your kids. It's hard to imagine how your children will cope with the transition. Though it's never easy, here are some tips to keep in mind when it's time for one parent to move out:
1. Keep the kids informed: You might think you're protecting them by keeping them out of the divorce-related drama and while it might be best to shield your kids from legal stuff, when it comes to who will live where it's really best to keep kids in the know. Encourage your kids to ask questions and give them honest answers. They'll want to know where they will live, how often they will see you and the other parent, and if the rest of their lives will change (school, friends, activities, etc.)
2. Try to think about "stuff" the way your child would: Kids are sensitive to change when it comes to their environment. Be mindful of the fact that your children have grown up with much of the same "stuff" their whole lives. So, if you or your spouse is planning on taking a big, visible item from the home (like a couch or coffee table), work together to replace or rearrange the furniture so its absence isn't as obvious.
3. Be compassionate: You and your spouse have been your child's whole world. So, even though you might feel better when your spouse moves out, it's natural for your kids to miss their other parent. Try to validate your child's feelings with statements like, "Its okay to miss Mommy" or "You've had to deal with lots of changes; it'll take time for this to feel like home" to help reassure your children that you understand.
4. Be mindful of goodbyes: No matter what, it's going to be hard being separated from your children when they spend time with the other parent. But remember that you are the adult and your reaction sets the example for your children. Try your best to keep goodbyes cheerful ("Have fun this weekend, I'll see you Monday!") rather than tearful ("I'll miss you, call me whenever you need to.") Even if you have to fake it, setting the right tone can really give your kids a solid launch.
If you're considering a divorce in Pennsylvania, there are a lot of things to consider. For reliable divorce and child custody advice, contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys.