Divorcing parents often focus most of their energy on making sure their school-age kids are doing as well as possible with the changes to their family. Parents with toddlers too often assume they’re doing fine when in fact they aren’t.
The problem is that toddlers typically don’t have the language skills to express their questions and fears. Parents can help their little ones by understanding what’s important to them and explaining things in words they can understand.
What kinds of things does your toddler want to know?
Most toddlers are more concerned with how the divorce will affect them than what led to it. Where will they live? Where will their toys, clothes and other belongings be? Will they still get to see their grandparents, babysitters, friends and others they’re attached to?
Explain the new living situation in terms you know your child will understand. If you and your spouse are sharing custody, explain that some days they’ll be with you and some with their other parent. Let them know where that will be – if you’re both moving to new homes or just one of you is for now.
Helping your child adjust to transitioning between homes
The sooner you can get a schedule worked out – even if it’s temporary – the more secure your child will feel. Young kids do better with something they can see, so it’s helpful to have a calendar they can see at both homes. Let them decorate it or individualize it any way they like.
Help your child feel at home with both of you. Let them choose their own bedding in their new room and keep some items in each place. The less they have to pack when they move between homes, the more they’ll feel like they belong in both places.
If they have a favorite doll or toy they want to carry back and forth, let them. Your child’s things are theirs to have wherever they are. Unless it’s a giant dollhouse or train set, there’s no reason why they can’t bring a few toys with them between homes.
Every divorce is unique, and every child is unique. However, the sooner and more amicably you can work out your parenting time schedule, the easier it will likely be to transition your child to their new normal.