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Kids of divorce should feel 'at home' with both parents

Kids whose divorcing parents agree to a shared custody arrangement are fortunate because they get to spend time with both of them. However, that usually means moving back and forth between two homes. There are some things that both parents can do to help their kids feel comfortable in both homes -- even if they only spend occasional nights and alternating weekends in one of them.

First, let your child participate in decorating the new room (or both new rooms if you and your spouse are selling the family's house and each moving to new homes.) This can include choosing the color of the paint, picking out a bedspread and nightlight and buying some posters and stuffed animals. It's essential for kids to feel like they're at home and not just visiting when they're with the parent they see less.

Kids will always have to pack some things, like school books, clothes and electronics when they go from one home to the other. However, parents should ensure that both homes have toiletries, coats, pajamas, alarm clocks and basic school supplies. Kids shouldn't have to spend their weekend or holiday with a parent unpacking and "setting up" their room.

When kids are still young enough to need help packing, it's important for the parent whom they'll be leaving for a time to help out. Don't put this off until the last minute and use up part of your ex's time. Don't make your child feel guilty about spending time with your co-parent. Express excitement (whether you feel it or not) about all the things they'll be doing together.

Agree on some rules that your child needs to follow at both homes. Too often, parents vie for the "fun parent" role -- particularly if they're not the one with primary custody. However, kids need as much predictability as possible following their parents' break-up. Find at least a few things (such as when homework is done, video game restrictions and expectations around room straightening) that are the same no matter where your child is.

You may want to detail some of these things (or others) in your parenting plan when you're drawing it up or modify your existing plan if needed to make your child's transition between your homes easier. Your Tennessee family law attorney can help you as you go through this process with your co-parent.

Source: Parents, "Making a Child Comfortable in Two Homes," Jeannette Moninger, accessed May 29, 2018

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