Adjusting to life after a divorce can take some time in both emotional and practical ways. Setting up a new home without a spouse can be exciting but also spark some feelings of uncertainty. It is tough for us as adults to cope with these big life changes—and the toll on children is even greater.
If you are a dad who shares child custody, you want to make the transition to a shared-time schedule easier for your kids. You can start by making your home a place they feel comfortable and enjoy hanging out. Instead of guessing what might make your kids like their new part-time surroundings, bring them into the process. Here are some ways to do it.
Let them design their own rooms. Give your kids some responsibility in choosing how their own room will look and function. If they share a room, try to help them reach a compromise (a bonus lesson!). By allowing your kids to express themselves and create a special space all their own, they will feel comfortable (and comforted) while you don’t have to sacrifice your personal taste elsewhere in the home. For another bonus lesson, help your kids understand their budget and how to make the most of it. Turn any out-of-budget ideas into DIY projects for even more shared fun with your children.
Buy permanent items. Instead of having your kids carry their toothbrush back and forth between houses, buy them their own set of toiletries and other items used regularly (shampoo, face wash, hair products, etc.). They can also keep some clothing at your home (though the older they get, the more fickle they will become about what they wear and when).
Think of items that would normally be thrown in an overnight bag and then purchase duplicates for your home. Then your kids can just show up ready for a good time.
Let them be messy. Sometimes. If you spend only part of your time with your kids, don’t waste it all nagging them to do things. Respect for their home and their belongings is an important thing, but it is also okay to let them leave their shoes in the middle of the floor or purses/backpacks on the couches. This just means that they are comfortable in your home and you should encourage that behavior.
Look for a balance between responsibility and flexibility. Spend your time with your kids, not constantly cleaning up behind them. You will have time to put your home back in order once your shared time has ended.
Buy groceries and make meals that they like. If you know that your son enjoys a particular meal or type of food, make it available to him when he is with you. The same goes for a certain snack or drink that your daughter likes. For centuries, the family unit has revolved around the basic instinct to eat together—both for survival and camaraderie. When your kids associate your home with nourishment, even subconsciously, they will naturally want to spend time there. Buying favorite items also shows that you pay attention to what they like and care about their happiness. There are also hosts of benefits associated with teaching your kids to cook—so take advantage of your time at home to show them how their favorite recipes are created. If you are not really sure how to cook yourself, take advantage of the opportunity to learn alongside your kids (and maybe have them teach you a thing or two).
Unplug. When your kids are there, try to limit other distractions—particularly electronics like phones, computers, and tablets. Sure, there may be a television show or movie that you all enjoy together on occasion, but for the most part, try to spend quality time with each other and not just next to each other.
The older your kids get, the less they may want to just sit or read books together, so get creative and change it up. Consider a neighborhood walk, run, or bike ride each evening, a family outing, some backyard volleyball, or a night with favorite board games. If all your kids remember about their stays with you is that you were seemingly too busy for them, they won’t like coming over.
Building a new life following a divorce can be a great time to bond with your kids in new ways. Creating a comfortable, cozy atmosphere at home is one way to show them that you are looking forward to the time you will spend together in the coming years. You do not have to have a lot of space or anything fancy in your home. Just let your kids know that it belongs to them too, through words and actions, and they will want to be there in it with you.