Published on March 20, 2023

The transition from one family home to two homes is a big change for the whole family. So how do you make it work, stay organised and on the same page with your ex? What practical strategies can you deploy to help your children cope with the changes involved in living in two homes?

We know the transition is never easy and everyone reacts differently. Here’s what we’ve learnt from the couples we’ve helped to transition from parents to co-parents and from one home to two.

Practical strategies help children cope best

Work out the practicalities together as parents first before involving the children. Factor in where you will both live, where your children will go to school or nursery and the distance between this triangle. Too much to-ing and fro-ing, and spending hours in the car for pick-ups and drop-offs will take a toll on all of you. If you are forced to live a long distance apart, pick a home that will be the children’s base. Think about what is best for them, not what feels ‘fair’ or ‘equal’ to you. A great relationship with your children is not predicated on whether they stay at your house half the time – its built on love… and it’s the little things that count.

If you aren’t on good terms with your ex, then try not to worry if things aren’t consistent right at the start – sometimes things take a bit of time to bed in.

Once you’ve made the decision, tell your children about the move to two homes

You might not know where you are all going to live when you first tell the children you are separating but saying nothing is rarely the best option. It’s ok not to have all the answers but keeping the children in the dark can be frightening or frustrating depending on how old they are. Tell them what you know… for example that they will be staying in the same school. Ask them what will help make the new house a home. (Prepare for the answer to be a ’puppy’ and know what you are going to say!). Avoid taking them to first viewings, create a short list or screen properties with a friend or family member before showing the children especially if they are young as this can be unsettling. If you are feeling really amicable, you can involve your ex in looking for your new home.

Get them involved in the move to two homes.

Strategies to help children cope with two homes

This depends on the age of your children, but it can be effective to let the children stay with the parent who’s moving out / getting a new property for the first few days in their new place. That way they are there to help unpack, discover the house, cook the first meal/get a takeaway, go through the experience together. Try and make the first night under a new roof exciting for both you and the children. This will make it feel more like a home for all of you from the off as they will feel more involved in it.

Keeping some consistency will help children cope with the move to two homes

One or potentially two new homes will be a big enough change. Keep as much as possible ‘normal’ so your children can ease in and adjust slowly. Sharing bedtimes, homework routines or tech time limits can help establish a new house feeling like home quickly. Things like a teddy or favourite toy that your child gets comfort from or sleeps with can travel between homes. You can always buy spares of ‘special toys’ just in case something is left in the wrong home or lost in transit! If you aren’t on good terms with your ex, then try not to worry if things aren’t consistent right at the start – sometimes things take a bit of time to bed in.

Be organised. Two Homes for Your Children takes some organising!

Have things that they need in each house (toothbrush etc.). When packing bags for them to have at the other house, keep a list yourself (or get them organised to do it independently if old enough) so you know what needs to go. It’s very stressful for the kids if you forget to pack the football boots/right kit etc. so best to be organised. If you can afford to duplicate common items in both homes, then do… it will feel easier on the children. Start with school uniform as this is usually the thing that causes most stress if you get it wrong.

Talk positively about having two homes

Help children see the positives of a new home .and indeed, two homes Involve them in the design their bedroom picking a colour scheme or items of furniture. Help them explore new things that might be on their doorstep. Be practical too and practice things like walking to the nearest shop, bus stops or the walk to school before they have to do these things for real and under time pressure.

Create a parenting plan

Setting expectations, creating boundaries and pre-empting what might crop up is a transformational exercise. The more you think about things before they are an issue, the easier the transition will be for all of you. Plan ahead. You can read more about co-parenting here.

Download amicable’s free parenting plan template here

Take advantage of technology

Tech can help take the strain out of organising and communicating with your co-parent. amicable’s new co-parenting app includes:

  • a shared calendar that tracks things like school holidays and inset days (the calendar can integrate into your main calendar so you only have to check one place)
  • a goals section where you can define individual and shared parenting goals like bedtime and screen time etc.
  • a private messaging function so you can keep all communication in one place

Kate Daley contributed to ‘Separating With Children 101’, 3rd edition (Bath Publishing 2023).

This article has been written by…

And is in relation to the topic…

Co-operative Parenting

Co-operative parenting (sometimes shortened to co-parenting) is about sharing decisions and information about your children and making them feel as though they have two parents who can parent them effectively and together. It’s about communicating with your ex about your children in a positive and practical way.

Why Is Co-operative Parenting Important?

Much of the time, when going through a separation or divorce, parents will be experiencing emotional ups and downs. Such emotional turmoil can make it hard to step back and see things clearly. It can also be hard to see how we are going to need, now more than ever, to be calm and reassuring parents for the children. The benefits of co-operatvie parenting can last a life-time. Some parents can end up using children as bargaining collateral, withholding access, wanting to feel as though our children are on their 'side'. These can feel like small wins but really aren't and cause long term damage. On this hub you will find a number of articles offering support and advice on co-operative parenting. You will also find articles and videos looking at the longer-term impacts of separation and divorce.

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