When most of us think back to our childhood and adolescent years, we remember our bedrooms. They were the one place in the house that was ours. They were a reflection of who we were and what we treasured.
If you’re a divorcing parent, it’s crucial to remember the importance of that space to help your child adjust to the changes in their life. As one co-parenting professional says, “Physical space is a concrete representation of emotional space.”
Decorating their new space provides a sense of control
Letting your child be involved in decorating their new bedroom and other spaces where they’ll spend time as they move between homes goes a long way toward easing anxiety. It helps them feel a sense of control during an uncertain time.
If one parent is staying in the family home, it’s important to make sure your child feels equally at home in their other parent’s new place. No child should feel like they’re a visitor when they’re with either parent. While many parents downsize as they divorce, a child should continue to have a room of their own (or one they share with a sibling).
Even toddlers can have a say in things like bedding and stuffed animals. Older kids can be given more freedom to decorate as they choose. You may even want to bring them while you’re looking at new homes.
No child should feel like a visitor
Minimizing the amount of packing and unpacking is key to helping a child feel at home with both parents. No kid should have to pack a toothbrush, shampoo or underwear. Staples like these should be in both homes. Eventually, you’ll work out how much to keep in each place.
Finally, kids should never have toys, dolls or other items they can only play with at “your” house. Your kids’ things are theirs to move back and forth or keep wherever they like. A doll or a favorite book can go back and forth or stay at your co-parent’s home if that’s where they want it.
If you’re still working out your parenting plan, you may find issues in these early days of co-parenting you want to codify to prevent conflict later. With sound legal guidance, you can have a parenting plan that keeps the best interests of your child front and center.