Single Parenting: Tips for Explaining Separate Homes to Children
I knew it would happen sooner or later, questions from my daughter about why she lives in two separate houses. “Why do you have a house and Daddy has another house?” “My friend at school lives with her Mommy AND Daddy,” or “Don’t you love Daddy?” Ahhh…where to begin?
I started by simply telling the truth: “Your Daddy and I love you very much, but we realized that we are better friends by living separate.” I then explained how lucky my daughter is that she has not one, but TWO bedrooms – two big bedrooms full of toys, clothes, shoes, dolls, arts and crafts materials. You name it, I bet she has it somewhere! Here are some other things that have worked for us in helping her to understand the separation and living situation.
Tips for Explaining Separate Homes to Children
- Don’t lie! Just because kids don’t always know how to verbally express what’s going on, children understand a lot more than we think they do. We read the book Two Homes by Claire Masurel and it really helped my daughter to understand that just because most of the children in her class lived with both parents, not ALL children do.
- Point out the positives. Two bedrooms, two kitchens, two toy boxes, two set of bath toys, two book shelves…you get the point! Besides having two of everything, we explain to her that she is lucky to be able to always spend one-on-one time with each of us.
- Create a consistent routine. If bath time is at 7 p.m. and bedtime is at 8 p.m. at mom’s house, make sure dad is doing the same thing. Does dad allow a popsicle after dinner? If so, mom should too. For our family, my daughter stays with me Monday – Friday and her father every other weekend. Sometimes throughout the week he’ll stop by before bedtime for a quick trip to the park, dinner, or some other fun activity.
- Don’t let your child feel guilty for choosing where to stay. Switch off on the weekends. One night, let your child decide where she wants to stay. If one weekend she chooses to stay at dad’s, reassure her that she’s making a great choice and ask for a big hug and kiss goodbye.
- Mix it up. Let her have a sleepover at grandma’s or auntie’s house to show her that there can be more than one loving home for her.
- Do things together as a family. It won’t hurt to go out to a restaurant or to see a movie with your child’s other parent. We pick one day each month to do something together (last month we saw Rio 2 and had a blast – plus, dad paid!).
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. There are a lot of family counselors who are great at helping to determine what may or may not be best for your family.
As children grow older and begin to understand more, it won’t be such a hard issue to address. As long as your child knows just how much you both love her, that’s all that matters. Next up is introducing new partners/relationships into the mix. Not sure I’m quite ready for that challenge! Any advice from those who have been there?
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Explaining Divorce to Children
- E-family news: Co-Parenting – A Unified Approach When Divorced or Separated
- E-family news: How to Help Children Understand Diverse Families