Question of the week: How do you prepare your child for the disruption of their schedule?



Anyone who ministers to children of divorce will come across this issue at some point. Most of these kids struggle with chaotic schedules. Even as they need consistency, they cope with unstable and fluid timetables, a byproduct of separation or divorce.

Past posts have addressed the importance of consistent schedules for children of divorce.

At the beginning of the school year, there was a blog post on the importance of schedules for when school starts.

Before we changed to Daylight Savings Time (DST), there was a post on how confusing the change in time can be to children in divorced homes.

Last fall, there was a post about the two most difficult days of the entire year for children of divorce. Those two days are the day after we go on DST and the day after we go off DST.

Having consistent schedules and daily routines for children who have experienced trauma is of the utmost importance. For many children, the trauma of a divorce is equal to a tsunami. The divorce hits and changes the landscape of the home forever. Nothing is ever the same again, including their daily schedules and familiar routines.

When the world is in chaos, routines and schedules go flying out the window. The chaos I describe could be something they hear on the news or that happens in the community, their neighborhood, or the home itself. For children of divorce and other crisis, it can be any or all of these things.

Preparing kids for disruption of their schedules when a divorce occurs

Children view divorce as a crisis. Children’s ministers and church leaders can do the following to help children when divorce is imminent.

  • Encourage the single parent to stay in the family home if possible.
  • While keeping the same routine they had in a two-parent home probably won’t be possible, both parents need to determine what changes are going to take place that might affect the daily routine they used to have.
  • Take the single parent aside, and help him or her work through the changes that will take place when he will be parenting alone.
  • Encourage the parent to sit the child down and explain how and why things are going to be different. For example, “Mom is not going to be able to take you to school and pick you up like we did before Dad moved out, so we will get you registered at the before-school program at your school.”
  • Help the new single parent write out a daily routine, including daily activities and chores the children will need to do.
  • Encourage the single parent to post the new daily routine in a prominent place in the home, so all can see and refer to it.
  • Encourage the single parent to post upcoming schedules next to the daily routine chart. (A schedule will be a list of events coming up, such as visitation or visits to grandparents.)
  • If possible, encourage both parents to have similar daily routines in both homes and to try to cooperate as much as possible any time there needs to be a change in schedules.
  • Set up consistent visitation schedules

Preparing children for spring breaks and other interruptions

While most kids get excited about spring and summer break and other breaks from school, they can cause insecurities and even depression for the children of divorce. The children are used to the daily “sameness” routines bring to them. They may dread not knowing how the next few days or weeks are going to be spent.

What you can do as a church leader

  • Help the single parent realize school breaks are coming up by making announcements in church bulletins and sending texts and emails to all parents. (While most of us can’t imagine not realizing a school holiday is coming up, single parents many times are so overwhelmed they simply don’t realize there isn’t going to be school the next week or next month or school is going to be out in two weeks.)
  • Help the single parent to develop a conversation he can have with the children to make them aware they will be well taken care of and safe during the school break including summer break. 
  • As a help to single parents, plan fun activities during school and summer breaks. Plan far in advance, so single parents and children can look forward to taking part in fun activities.

Long-term interruption of schedules

Even after a divorcing home gets on a consistent daily routine and plans for changes in schedules, things happen that are out of the parent’s control. For some situations, you can’t prepare a child, such as

  • Storms, floods, hurricanes
  • House fires
  • Sudden death of a loved one

In these situations, it is important to get the children on a schedule and quickly develop a daily routine as soon as possible. It will not be the same daily routine as before, but the kids will adapt when it is consistent day in and day out.

How do you prepare children for such drastic changes in schedules?

  • Talk to the children about what happened.
  • Be truthful on the children’s developmental level.
  • Do not allow the TV news to be on all the time.
  • Let the children know they are safe. You can only assure them they are safe in the moment you are in at that time.
  • Allow elementary-school-age children to contribute to the routine. Ask what they think they should do first everyday, what should happen next, etc.
  • Write out the daily routine, so all can see it. Keep in mind children under stress may need pictures or icons, so they can process what they are viewing
  • Go over the daily routine verbally several times and for several days in a row.
  • Go over any changes in schedule that are going to take place. For example, say, “Instead of going to child care tomorrow, you will be going next door to the neighbor’s home.”

Understand there is no quick fix. Whether it is a universal or local trauma or something that happens in the home, healing and recouping from a crisis takes time. Sometimes, it takes years.

Consistent daily routines and thought-out schedules will go a long way to bringing security to any child.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on March 16, 2015.

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