In a time that is full of changes and uncertainty, the best assistance you can give your kids is to foster a sense of stability and security. There are many ways to do this:
1. Ensure that you keep as many of the routines you had before the separation. There are so many changes happening, including a possible change in living space, that it is important you keep the routines as similar as before. If you are sharing custody of your children, then try make sure that the routines are the same with both parents. This means that bedtimes, eating rituals and morning routines are all followed in the same way. This helps create a sense of predictability and stability
2. Ensure that you have firm and consistent boundaries and that both parents follow the same rules. Often parents feel guilty about the pain they may be causing their children and feel worried about exacerbating this with enforcing rules and discipline. However, this is the time when children need firm boundaries and clear rules. It is essential that both parents follow the same rules and methods for discipline in order to encourage that stability and security. Children will know where they stand with you when the boundaries are clear and consistently enforced. Leniency at this point only serves to heighten insecurity.
3. It is really important that parents remain respectful towards one another, both in front of the children and to the children. Although the tension may be flying high, avoid the temptation to ‘bad-mouth’ one another to your kids. Children don’t want to feel torn between their parents or forced to take sides in loyalty – remember that they love you both equally.
4. Allow your children to make some decisions during the process. Of course important decisions are still left to the adults, but give your child the freedom to decide how to decorate their new room, what times they would like to speak with the other parent on the phone and what to have for dinner, for example. Giving your child some autonomy will allow them to feel more control over what is happening and help ease the adjustment.