Breaking up a family is a difficult and painful undertaking. There are many hurdles to overcome, but the children's welfare must be a primary consideration for divorcing parents. Children will react to the new circumstances differently, depending on their age. They must be assured that they are more important to you than whatever it was that ended your marriage, and that your love for them will endure, no matter what. However, the prospect of dealing with two homes and a visitation schedule are going to require a good deal of adjustment. Developing a co-parenting plan will help to ease the transition.
The plan you make should be an outline of the way going forward. Make it a check list of each parent's responsibilities: who takes the children to dental appointments and stays home with a sick child, who goes on school field trips and takes the children to music lessons and soccer practice. Your plan should also address holidays and vacations, so there is some thought given in advance as to how each of you as parents will handle special occasions.
The benefits to children
In addition to assuring them of your love, you want your children to feel secure. A co-parenting plan can help in this regard. Now that the children will be living between two households, ensure that there are similar rules, rewards and disciplinary actions in each. Children need consistency in their lives, and they get along better if they know what is expected of them. As parents, set good examples for them to follow by showing respect and setting a civil tone in your dealings with one another, especially when the children are nearby.
Managing the transition between homes
When children are preparing to leave your home to go to the other parent, stay positive. Remind them a day or two ahead of time that the visit is coming up. If you have small children, help them pack and encourage them to take a few favorite things like a special toy or photograph. They should have private spaces of their own at the "new" house, such as a closet, drawers, shelves or perhaps a toy bin. If they are able to have bedrooms of their own, so much the better. When they first arrive at the new home and when they return to the old, it is a good idea to have some quiet time. You might read a book with a younger child or give an older boy or girl some time just to relax and settle in.
Seeking professional help
Divorce and everything that goes with it is new territory. You will have many questions, especially about your children and how best to help them get through the family breakup. Remember that you can turn to an attorney experienced with divorce and family law to help you create a workable plan for going forward.