Colorado Child Support and Custody Laws - Kids Having Two Homes
KIDS HAVING TWO HOMES
One of the realities of divorce is that children are suddenly
torn from “one two-parent household” to “two
one-parent households.” This change can be extremely stressful
on children, not only on an emotional level, but on a physical
level as well. After two new households have been established,
children must adapt to at least one new residence, if not two.
Additionally, there may be new schools and new neighborhoods involved.
When a child makes a transition to “two one-parent households,” it
is helpful to understand it from the child’s perspective,
which is similar to the anxiety experienced on the first day of
school: New teachers, new classmates – who can be trusted,
who can’t, finding one’s way around the school, getting
your locker open, what books and homework need to be taken home,
making the bus on time, etc. While such an analogy severely underestimates
the stress the children may be going through, it is important to
remember what it was like to be at their age. Fortunately, though,
there are a number of things a parent can do to help ease the transition
of the child during this confusing time.
When the transition is made from one home to two homes, particularly
in the case of younger children, there should be objects of comfort
such as stuffed
animals or toys in each home. Having “comfort items” other than
items needed for living present at each place reassures the children that they
are welcome in each home. It is also a good idea for each parent to give the
children a photograph or other memento to remember the parent by when they
Moreover, it is important for the children to know that they
are safe in each home, and what to do if there is an emergency.
This means the children should know where the emergency phones
numbers are as well as which neighbors can be counted on for help.
Depending on the length of the visit at each parent’s home,
rather than having the child pack a huge suitcase hauling all his
or her possessions from one place to the next, the child should
have a set of basic items in each home. For example, the child
should have toiletries and several sets of clothing at each residence.
This limits the inconvenience of continually packing and unpacking,
and relieves stress on the child (as well as the parent). It is
also helpful to have the children participate in the purchases
of the “second set” of items so they can feel like
they have some control over the situation.
If possible, it is a good idea to set apart an area in each home
as the “child’s room” or some other area that
the child can depend on as being his or her own space. If separate
rooms for the child are not feasible, other options should be considered,
such as a desk or drawer. An area reserved as the child’s
can alleviate any fears that the child might have regarding a new
The children should be able to communicate with
the other parent, either through email, telephone, or other means.
Staying in contact
with the other parent allows the children to feel that both parents
want to remain involved in their life, regardless of where the
children are physically.
In the beginning, the children may be apprehensive about traveling
to the other parent’s home for no other reason than simply
fear of the unknown. Parents can help their children overcome their
fears by telling them that once they get to the new place, they’ll
play a favorite game, have a special treat, etc.
If there are family pets, it may sometimes be possible if the
pets make the trip between households, as well. Having a companion
along for the trip is a source of comfort for children.
Two different sets of household rules are a frequent problem of
kids having two homes. This can often be the source of great conflict
between the parents, and confusing to the children. The difference
in rules between households should be minimized as much as possible.
In particular, parents will want to pay special attention to keeping
the basics of the children’s routine the same, such as bedtime,
mealtimes, habits regarding bathing, chore responsibilities, homework,
curfews, allowances, use of cars, etc. As long as the children’s
routine is kept consistent, though, the parents should be prepared
to realize that the other parent might have a different parenting
To the extent possible, parents should jointly attend children’s
events, such as sporting events, dance recitals, etc. Even if the
parents’ relationship is such that they must view the event
from separate locations, it at least gives the children reassurance
that they both desire to be involved in their children’s
life, regardless of their relationship to the other parent.
Children should never be used to relay messages between parents.
Doing so forces the children to decide which parent should receive
their loyalty. There is also the risk that the children will feel
unloved by a parent if certain commands are not followed. If messages
need to be transmitted through the parents, a notebook or journal
should be allowed so that the children are not thrust into the
parents’ conflict. E-mail communications is another, increasingly
frequent, option for divorcing parents.
Over time, children can adapt and function well in two homes.
However, the parents bear a responsibility to make the transition
as seamless as possible, as well as to avoid placing the child
into the center of their conflict.
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