7 tips to guide your child when moving house after divorce
My youngest son Roy doesn't want to live in 2 houses! He told us: I didn't choose for you guys to break up. Now I have a shitty life! That hit us hard.
Only four months ago, after they divorced, Johan and Ria agreed that she would continue to live in their owner-occupied home until their eleven-year-old son Roy started secondary school. For little Roy, the grieving process of their divorce really started when Johan moved to an apartment outside the village where they lived as a family. Now Mom and Dad live separately, Roy doesn't feel secure in his family.
The parenting plan agreement means that every Wednesday, Roy goes to Johan for a few days. Each time, Roy finds it a struggle to go to the new apartment. He put up a fight and sobbed. He'd cry out: No, I don't want to go to daddy. I don't want to go to his house, I don't know anyone there! My friends are here, and I don't like my room! Roy started having anxiety attacks before going to sleep.
At a certain point, Johan and Ria no longer knew how to help and comfort Roy. That he would not go to Johan was not an option. Johan and Ria felt guilty because their son was right. He'd not been part of the decision for his parents to divorce. But how could they avoid traumatizing Roy further with his new living situation?
7 tips - My guide to help you guide your children through the sadness, anger, and fear when Mom and Dad live in two separate houses.
Don't buy everything new. Let your children choose which personal items they want to bring and keep at their second home. Think of toys, clothes, an office chair, painting, ...
Post a photo of the other parent in their room. This gives your child a safe feeling and your child stays connected with the other parent.
Understand that leaving one parent behind is difficult for your child. Give them time and space to say goodbye calmly. When you arrive at the new house, give them all your attention. Sit on the couch with your children and talk. Don't carry on as if they aren't there; leave the cleaning, work, and laundry until another time. Be present for your kids.
If your child is emotional, let them know that anger, fear, and sadness are natural. They’re allowed to have these feelings. It gives them comfort to know they are understood and loved unconditionally.
When your child is having an uncomfortable feeling, help them describe it to you. Let your child name it. Ask questions: Where do you feel it? What does it look like? Is it large or small, round, or square? Is it a tennis ball? Or a donut? It can turn into a fun exercise!
You can't heal your child's grief by buying gifts. These are merely plasters for a wound, but they don't solve anything. You can't buy your children's affections. Show your love through actions, not gifts.
Let your child know that Mom and Dad always work together and that they are your most important priority. It shows that Mom and Dad not only argue. Make it clear that you are both there for your child, no matter what.
Thanks to these tips, Roy is now getting better step-by-step. Because as complex as it is, Johan and Ria are now aware that Roy's feelings of anger, fear, and sadness are not really about Mom and Dad. It's not about you as parents. It's about the divorce Roy didn't choose!