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Going through a divorce is a difficult transition that can often feel like a death. This is only exacerbated when the children go to live with the other parent, whether by choice, or the decision of a judge. As difficult a transition this may be, all hope is not lost. The children are not gone, and can still be involved in the lives of both parents. When losing custody of the children, or giving up custody after the child requests to live with the other parent, there are a few things parents can do to ensure this is a smooth transition that will not cause an further damage or detriment to the lives of all involved.
The divorce was likely difficult on everyone, and while the children may be going to live with the other parent, this doesn’t mean the children are divorcing you too. Children often become upset during a divorce because they intrinsically want both parents to be together and for everyone to be happy. When children decide to live with one parent over the other, or a judge decides to grant custody to the other parent, it’s for a variety of reasons. These reasons do not mean that the children do not want to be in the life of the parent. The children are likely going through just as many emotions as parents are at the moment. If parents can empathize with the children, and try to understand what they must be feeling and going through, this can help lighten the blow that is felt from the absence of the kids.
Have a Co-Parenting Meeting
Even though the kids are going to be living with another parent, that doesn’t mean they will be completely out of your life altogether. There will likely be co-parenting duties that both parents share, and schedules to arrange that will determine when each parent will spend time with the children, and so forth. This is a great time to express any safety concerns, or parenting concerns with the other parent. Children do not need to be involved in a co-parenting meeting, but if parents can get along in an effort to join forces for the kids, it is always great to have both parents involved in any important discussions with the kids. This is great way to discuss any emergency plans with the kids that will entail what they are to do when they are in a situation where they need to reach a parent, etc.
Give the Children a Voice
While there are often disputes concerning custody that must be taken into court, it’s always the best idea to give children a voice concerning where they want to live, says Dr. Seth Meyers, PsyD. This can help children in a difficult situation, even though it’s incredibly difficult for parents to do, especially when they feel they are better equipped to parent, or more competent a parent.
“When a child chooses one parent over the other some parents may experience feelings of rejection, disloyalty, and abandonment … conjuring up old wounds and reminders of a failed marriage,” says Dr. Stephanie Burchell, PhD, LMFT.
Letting go of some control for the sake of the kids, and honoring their wishes is one of the biggest displays of love parents can show their kids. If this transition is happening out of a child’s voice, parents should try to be as supportive as possible, and not push the child away due to hurt feelings.
Express Any Concerns
When a child goes to live with the other parent, there are likely a whirlwind of questions and concerns floating around in the mind of the parent who will not be housing the child full-time. It’s really great for both parents and children when they can sit down and have a conversation that calmly addresses each of these concerns. If tensions are high, and it’s difficult to communicate with the kids without having conflict, it can help to book some family therapy sessions with a trained therapist or counselor who can mediate, and ensure each person has a voice in discussing these concerns in a proactive way.
Stay Actively Involved in the Child’s Life
Despite the hurt feelings parents may have when the children go to live with the other parent (especially if it was the child’s decision) it’s important for parents to remain active in the life of the child. This could be an easy time to let conflict or disappointment interfere with one’s relationship with the kids. However, when parents can stay actively involved in the life of the child, they are helping the child adjust after the divorce in a way that is most healing and beneficial for the child as he/she becomes an adult.
Consult a Therapist or Trusted Friend
This is a difficult time that the most Zen of individuals can struggle with. It’s difficult to face such situations alone, and that’s why it’s so important to have a strong network of support during this time. Taking some time for support from friends, family, and one’s community is a great way to cope with this difficult transition. A trusted friend one can confide in is key during this emotional time. It may also help to have the support of a trained, licensed therapist or counselor.
Enjoy Your Free Time
Having the children move in with one’s ex isn’t the worst thing that could happen in the world. The children are still alive, and a parent can still have a relationship with the children and be involved in their lives in meaningful ways. Another positive is the fact that when children go to live with another parent, there is likely a great deal of time that is freed up. This can do wonders for a person in the wake of a divorce. Take advantage of this free time by spending more time doing the things you always wanted to do, but felt like you couldn’t because of the children. Soak up some sun, start reading a new book, learn a new skill or start a new hobby, indulge in some pampering, or enjoy the peace and quiet. If it was difficult to keep nice things around the house in the past because of the kids (and ex …) it could be a great time to redecorate. Taking advantage of the situation is one of the best ways to heal from the emotional pain this transition has the power to contribute to.