In the midst of divorce and the subsequent changes that happen in the children’s lives, maintaining stability becomes one of the most important factors in making children feel secure. When my husband, Dave, and his wife divorced and he realized he would have full custody of the children (it was supposed to be 50/50, but she opted not to take any custody at all) Dave made some key decisions that helped his kids feel safe during such a stressful time. I admire him for the sacrifices he made for his children. I think that the way he handled things made a huge difference in the kids’ ability to adjust and cope.
One of the decisions he made was to keep the house they were living in. While it was painful for him to have the constant reminder of what was, for the kids, it meant very little changed in their routines: they went to the same school, slept in the same bedrooms, and knew where everything was. Of course they had to adjust to their mother’s absence, and the changes that occurred as she moved certain things out of the house, but for the most part the kids were surrounded by the familiar. While you may not be able to keep your home in a divorce, choosing to live in the same school district and in a familiar area can help your kids adjust.
The other thing Dave demanded was that nothing – not even things that belonged to his ex-wife – be removed from the kids’ rooms; their rooms were sacred and off limits for any kind of change. It meant she had to leave behind a blanket that was in Kira’s room and a couple of pictures in the boys’ room, but it also meant that the kids were not confronted with her absence in their bedrooms.
He communicated with the children’s teachers and counselors (Kira was in Kindergarten, Kyle was in a special school for the disabled, and Derek was in second grade). He made sure the school knew how to reach him at all times; he personally walked the kids to school every morning and was there to pick them up every afternoon. He continued their extracurricular activities – soccer and gymnastics – so that everything felt as “normal” as possible.
Finally, because Dave had been working nights and his wife had been home with the kids, he gave up his career so that he could be with the kids at night. He took a low-paying restaurant job that allowed him to work only when the kids were in school. Their budget was tight, but the kids had their dad with them whenever they weren’t in school.
Providing stability to the life of a child whose parents are divorcing is critical to their well-being. Making these sacrifices wasn’t difficult for Dave – it was all done out of love and an instinct to protect his kids from any further heartache.