Whether your children are going to live with you most of the time, half the time, every other weekend or just once in a while, it’s important that they feel at home - wherever they are.
Asking children to move between homes so that they can spend time with both of you can be tough for them. As well as having to negotiate the differences between your different ways of living, there are some very practical implications such as needing to have clothes, games and other important things in both homes.
Helping your children to move their things
Packing up and moving out once or twice a week, or even just once a month, can be a struggle for some children. It’s up to both parents to take responsibility for ensuring that they have all the things they need – think about how your child may feel if their favourite teddy has been left behind. It’s essential that moves are well planned and become part of the routine. This means that, as a parent, you need to think ahead and get organised. It will also help if parents can work together to make sure that things run as smoothly as possible.
Make a list of all the important things that your children need: clothing, footwear, toys and games, books and homework etc. Most importantly, make sure that younger children have their favourite teddy or blanket with them. Leaving without these can be disastrous! It’s a good idea to have a regular bag that you can use, one that will hold almost everything that your children will need. Carrying half a dozen assorted bags can create chaos and increases the risk that something will be forgotten.
Deciding what you will need in each home
Of course, it makes sense to move as few things as possible. What can you double up on? Obvious items include toothbrushes, certain toys and games, and pyjamas. But think about other things, too, such as old clothes for playing outside, rainwear, spare underwear and old clothes to paint or play in. All of these items have the potential to make your life easier and make it a lot less likely that you’re going to get into unnecessary arguments with your child's other parent. Older children will need hygiene products such as deodorants, and girls may like a bit of make-up. Older girls may also need sanitary products in both homes.
Helping your children to feel at home
If you have moved into a new home, especially if you are not providing the main day-to-day care for your children, it can be difficult to make it feel like home for them. It can be even more difficult if they only stay with you infrequently or for short periods. But there are some strategies that can help.
It can help to put yourself in your child's position. What do you see in your new place that will make them feel at home? Is there a bed that belongs to them? What about somewhere to put their clothes? Are there a few books or comics? Is there a special breakfast bowl or mug? What about their favourite foods?
It’s not difficult to make your home feel welcoming. If your children can each have a room to themselves, then great. If you’ve had to move into a smaller place and they’re sleeping in the lounge, then let them have a corner or a bookshelf that holds some of their things to reassure them. Get them to put up a few posters or photos and maybe go shopping together for things like duvet covers. If they’re old enough, why not decorate their room or space together?