Question of the week: Do you have any advice for parents to help children who rotate between two homes?



I was recently asked this question on Facebook. I know nothing about the individual situation that prompted this question so I can only answer in generalities.

Here are a few ideas that will help all children. Share them with the single parents you know and minister to:

  • Keep a calendar in a prominent place so the child can see it. Remind the child a few days in advance they will be going to the other home and on what day.

Some of these little children are like nomads wandering the world. No one tells them anything. They pretty much have to guess what is going on.

  • Talk to the child and let them know what will be happening in the home while the child is gone. Example: “Mom is going to mop the floor while you are gone so when you come home you’ll be coming home to a very clean house.”

Children worry about the parent they are leaving. They wonder what the parent is doing while they are gone. Some worry the parent might not be there when they return. Telling them something you are going to be doing allows them to imagine you at home without them. It also tells them you’ll be there when they return.

  • Allow the child to take something from home with them such as a stuffed animal or blanket.
  • For younger children send a piece of the parent’s clothing. Have the parent spray their favorite cologne on the item. The child can sleep in the piece of clothing or keep it close so they can smell the parent’s aroma. (If possible the child could bring something home from the other parent also. These kids deserve to have items from each parent so they feel like the parent they are not with is always with them.)
  • Develop consistent routines. Consistent routines build security.

Many of these children live hectic lives. It’s no ones fault but it is the lifestyle they live traveling between homes, school, afterschool care and grandparent visitation. Routines allow them to know what’s going to be happening while they are at home.

  • Develop a goodbye ritual. Encourage the parent to always use this ritual when the child is leaving the home. They will come to depend on that ritual as a connecting point with the parent in that home.
  • Develop a hello or welcome home ritual. Again encourage the parent to always use this ritual. It could be something as simple as a cup of hot chocolate in a sports mug for older boys or a tea in a cutesy teapot for little girls. Or it might be snuggling up with a book to read together

Rituals will help the child stay grounded in who they are and where they are in that moment in time.

If there are separation anxieties, check out this article.

How to help the young child with separation anxieties due to divorce



This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on Oct. 6, 2014.

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2 thoughts on “Question of the week: Do you have any advice for parents to help children who rotate between two homes?

  1. Although a lot help is needed for dealing with young children through the process of divorce, not much seems to be geared toward the teen years. I have had many people in my groups that have pre-teens and teens, can you please address some of the things they face? Thank you.

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