The value of routines
Kids are great at handling parents’ differences. They adjust, find solutions and can meet us adults in phenomenal ways. However, big changes take energy from children, and here, common routines can help them in their daily lives. It makes them feel recognized and gives them a sense of calm and peace. So they can focus on other things besides adjusting to all the new.
A summary of this article below.
Why routines are important
Having routines in place can help create a calm and predictable daily life. It is important for children and parents to be able to settle into and recover from the separation. If children are prepared for how days and weeks will look, it can reduce anxiety and create a sense of safety. This doesn’t mean that you need to have the exact same rules and routines in your homes. But it does mean that your child knows what to expect and has the opportunity to prepare for changes. The important thing is to create a family life that fits your child’s personality and age.
Food, sleep and unwinding
It can be helpful to agree on the basics of food, sleep and winding down. Agree on a bedtime that works for both homes, and that evening and mealtime routines are similar. It will also be easier if you agree when it’s time to stop with the pacifier, diaper, baby food and the stroller – both the timing and how to respond to the child when they protest.
Make joint decisions about your child’s activities. If one of you forgets to remind and doesn’t ensure that your child participates, it is your child who suffers. The best thing may be for the parent who wants to encourage your child’s musical pursuits to accompany them to piano lessons, even when the child is living with the other parent.
Even older children can benefit from having a similar basic structure in both parents, even though many are very adaptable. Having different attitudes towards food can be experienced as something positive. The one who makes well-cooked and nutritious food becomes a good counterbalance to the one who goes for quick macaroni and ready-made meatballs. Vegetarian food in one home can be a great complement to the meat and fish dishes in the other.
As parents, we often have different attitudes towards playing, screen time and what movies children are able to watch. Sometimes, it’s possible to agree on these matters. Sometimes, you just have to let go and respect that each parent makes the rules in their own home. Make it clear that you have different views on the use of screens and therefore have different rules in your homes. For the child, it can be a win-win situation to have their different needs satisfied in both of their homes.
Presents and Christmas gifts
Celebrations like Christmas, student graduation, Eid al-Fitr, Chanukka and birthdays need to be coordinated with your coparent. Buying identical gifts would result in embarrassment and disappointment. Have a humble attitude towards presents if you have different financial situations. In order to be able to enjoy nice presents, the child needs to feel that the one who bought them has done it with love and care. It should not become a competition between two opposing parties trying to outdo each other. In this, the child will always be the big loser.
School breaks and vacation trips
Schedule changes are necessary when it comes to holidays and vacations. For babies and younger preschoolers, it might be best to maintain the usual routine, even if it makes, for example, travel more difficult. Longer periods of time, such as a two-week period or even an entire week, can be challenging for smaller children who are longing for the other parent. It usually works out fine to switch a few days, like for Christmas or Midsummer celebrations. Teenagers, on the other hand, can have their own wishes that must be taken into account when adjusting the schedule, in order to hang out with friends or have a summer job. In order to make the summer holiday cozy and restful, it is necessary to plan out trips and vacation stays.
Give the child some time to adjust
It’s good to remember that kids may need time to settle back home between trips and visits with relatives and not be rushed between different experiences. In interviews, kids have said one of the advantages of having separated parents is that they get to travel twice as much and celebrate their birthday twice. But in order to enjoy such things, the planning needs to be adapted to the needs of the child. Performances, matches and graduations. These occasions can be stressful if the child is expected to perform joyful and affirming if they succeed. During these moments, the parents’ support is needed so that the child can focus on their task and on what is being celebrated. Squabbles between parents and stiff moods don’t belong here! The parent who can’t attend can still show their support to the child with an encouraging text message or celebrate with them later in the evening or the next day.
- Establishing consistent routines in both homes will give children more room to live their lives without having to put energy and time into adapting beyond what two homes involve.
- Establishing routines also means that you parents have fewer differences to take into account throughout the weeks. Both of you know what the expectations are and nobody needs to double-check what time it is etc.
- If you have different views on screen time, try to reconcile them as much as possible. It may also be the case that the child here will have to adapt to your differences.
- Give your child time to adjust and remember that your child may have certain needs based on their personality and preferences.