Helping your kids have two homes

2011-01-26 00:00

WHETHER your kids are going to live with you most of the time, half the time, every other weekend or just once in a while, it’s important that they feel at home — wherever they are.

Asking kids to move between homes so that they can spend time with both of you can be tough for them. As well as having to negotiate the differences between your way of living and Mum’s way of living, there are some very practical implications such as needing to have clothes, games and other important things in both homes.


Helping your kids to move their stuff


Packing up and moving out once a week, or even just once a month, can be a huge pain for kids. It’s up to you and their mum to take responsibility for ensuring that they have all the stuff they need — you don’t want to deal with a tantrum because a teddy bear has been left behind.

It’s essential that moves are well planned and become part of the routine. This means that you are going to need to think ahead and get organised. It will also help if you can work with their mum to make sure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Make a list of all the important things that they might need: clothing, footwear, toys and games, books and homework, and the like. Most importantly, make sure that younger children have their favourite teddy or blanket with them. Leaving without these can be disastrous.

It’s a good idea to have a regular bag that you can use, one that will hold almost everything that you or they need. Carrying half a dozen assorted bags creates chaos and increases the risk that something will be forgotten.


Deciding what you will need in each home


Of course, it makes sense to move as few things as possible. What can you double up on? Obvious items include toothbrushes, certain toys and pyjamas. But think about other things too, such as takkies for playing outside, rainwear, spare underwear and old clothes to paint or play in. All of these items have the potential to make life easier and make it a lot less likely that you’re going to get into arguments with your children’s mum about the state of their clothes.

Older kids will need hygiene products such as deodorants, and girls may like a bit of make-up.

Older girls may also need sanitary products. Relax. It’s not as bad as it sounds and there’s no need to make a scene. If it’s an issue, have a quiet word with their mum and make sure you’ve got the right products available in case of emergency. It could spare plenty of embarrassment and tears.


Helping your kids to feel okay


If you’re the parent who has moved to a new place, it can be difficult to make it feel like home for your children. It can be even more difficult if they only stay with you for short periods or infrequently. But there are some strategies that can help.

First things first: put yourself in their position. What do you see in your new place that will make them feel at home? Is there a bed? (It’s better than a couch.) What about somewhere to put their clothes? Are there a few books? Is there a special breakfast bowl or mug? What about their favourite foods?

It’s not difficult to make your home feel welcoming. If your kids can each have a different room to themselves, then great. If you’ve had to move into a smaller place and they’re sleeping in the lounge, then let them have a corner or a bookshelf that holds some of their things to reassure them. Get them to put up a few posters or photos and maybe go shopping together for things like duvet covers. If they’re old enough, why not declare it their room or space together.

• This is an extract from Divorce For Dads by Gary Bailey (Two Dogs Publishers).

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