5 Tips To Help Your Kids Cope With A Parent Moving Out During Divorce

Even when you know it is the right thing to do, getting a divorce is never easy. But, for however challenging divorce is for the adults involved, it is even more difficult for their children. Children - especially young ones - often don't have the emotional and intellectual maturity necessary to understand why their family is going through such a significant change. They may even think that the divorce is their fault or worry that their parents might stop loving them some day.

While children may have strong reaction to hearing about a divorce, the issue will likely not hit home until it comes time for one parent to move out of the family residence. When this happens, it can be very helpful to take steps to prepare your children for the transition and to give them some leeway to adjust to the change.

If you are going through a divorce, here are some tips you can use to help minimize the stress your children will experience:

  • Be honest, but appropriate: Don't set unrealistic expectations by telling your kids that their mom or dad is going on vacation or just leaving for a little while. They will likely have a lot of questions, and you should answer them honestly. However, don't involve your kids in whatever disputes you are having and never bad-mouth your ex in front of them.
  • Keep adult issues for the adults: Don't ask your kids to help with packing or looking for a new place to live, and try to refrain from packing or moving boxes when your kids are around. Most importantly, never ask them to act as a messenger between you and your ex - kids should never be put in a situation where they feel like they need to choose one parent over the other.
  • Respect their stuff: Once the new home is set up, give children some choices about where they want to keep their things. Kids sometimes develop odd attachments to their possessions, and it can be very stressful if you ask them to part with something they don't want to. It can also be very helpful to let your kids help set up their new bedrooms. Take them shopping for decor and let them set up their space in a way that feels comforting.
  • Give them space: Every child reacts to change differently. Give them time to adjust and try to avoid getting too frustrated if they act out or don't seem to feel "at home" in the new place. It will likely take a while for them to adjust to a new child custody arrangement.
  • Minimize disruptions: Divorce is a big change. As much as possible, everything else should stay the same. Enforce the same rules (bedtime, homework, snacks, etc.) as you did when both parents lived in the same home, and be sure that kids continue to be able to play sports, see their friends and do the same things they did before the divorce.

These are just a few of the strategies you can use to make your divorce less stressful for your children. While there's no one magic bullet, being communicative and understanding can go a long way toward helping your kids adapt to the change.