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Giving kids a sense of belonging in both homes amid divorce

Parental divorce always comes with some stress and uncertainty for children. That’s true even when their parents focus on their happiness and well-being.

One important thing parents can do is make sure they feel comfortable and welcome in both of their homes. If one parent is keeping the family home, at least for a time, that responsibility will largely fall on the parent who is moving out.

If that’s you, whether your child will be spending half of every week there or only weekends and vacations, it’s crucial that they feel at home. As one parenting expert says, “Physical space is a concrete representation of emotional space….You don’t want your child to feel like they’re a stranger in their own home.” So how can you help them feel at home in your new home?

Give them their own space(s)

If possible, your child should have their own room, bathroom and play area that’s left untouched when they aren’t around. Let them have some say in what these areas look like, like choosing the paint color, the bedding and whatever they’re old enough to have a say in.

Keep some basics in your home, like toiletries, some clothes and toys or electronics. The less packing and unpacking they have to do when they move between homes (especially if it’s regularly), the more they’ll feel like they belong in both places. Another nice touch is to keep some pictures around with your child and their other parent.

Have some of their favorite foods in stock when they visit. If they can find their favorite drink in the refrigerator or their favorite snack in the cupboard, they’ll feel more at home.

Give them responsibilities

One way to keep your child from feeling like a visitor is to give them chores. Try to keep chores consistent between your homes. Even if they’re only at your home a few days a month, they should be responsible for making their bed, keeping their room and bathroom clean and putting their toys and games away.

These are just a few ideas for helping your child or teen adjust to splitting their time between two homes and feeling like they belong in both. If you’re still working on your parenting plan, you may want to incorporate some mutual expectations for you and your co-parent to facilitate this.

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