Families Change
Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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What changes should I expect?

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Your life will change a lot when you separate or get a divorce. Your kids will be worried about these changes.  Even though there are a lot of changes, you need to focus on three things that will never change:

  • You are still a family, just a different kind.
  • Divorce doesn’t mean you lose your family.
  • Divorce doesn’t mean you lose your parents.

You will need to tell your children these things. Hearing this will help them adjust to the changes.

NOTE: Shared parenting can be hard when one parent is dealing with anger issues, substance abuse, or other serious problems that are bad for your children. But, in almost all cases, that parent still loves the children. The court will help you to figure out how to move forward while keeping the children safe. 


What about our living situation? 

One of the biggest things that a divorce can change is your living situation. If you will be moving, you should:

  • Tell your children.
  • Keep them up to date when you learn new details, like when or where you are moving.
  • Try to put it off until the next school year if moving will mean changing schools.

Stay positive if your children do have to change schools in the middle of the year. It might be harder, but they will still be able to adjust.

To help your kids adjust to a new school you can:

  • show them new bus or walking routes
  • visit their new school
  • go to the school playground on an evening or weekend
  • look at pictures and information on the school website

Your kids might have two homes. They could live part of their time with you and part of the time with their other parent. If this is your situation, make sure they feel at home in both places. If you can afford it, your children should have important things like toothbrushes and clothes in both homes. Living out of a suitcase is more like visiting than living in two homes. It is also a good habit to have your children talk to their other parent frequently when they are living with you.

Your children might spend more time with you or with their other parent. It is normal for children to miss the parent they spend less time with. Children need both of their parents. You can let them know that you love them by calling, sending letters, cards, pictures, texts and emails. You can use Skype, Hangout or other free software to meet online. One of the most loving things you can do for your children is to support their relationship with their other parent.


What about changes in how we live?

Typically, it is more expensive to support two households.  Tell your children that there may be less money for buying new things or eating out. This doesn’t mean that you have less fun! Try starting some new traditions, like a Friday night picnic instead of Friday night pizza.

You might also need to talk with your children about chores. Let them know that since there’s only one adult in the home, you might be asking them to pitch in and help more often.

Your relationships with your former in-laws and extended family might change. It is normal for some family members to take sides.  Make sure your children get to see any relatives who want to be a part of their lives. These relatives can help your children get used to the changes. NOTE: If this poses safety issues, see "What should I do if my children are being abused?”


Will any of the changes be good?

Your children might see some things change for the better! They might feel happy that you aren’t always upset or fighting with their other parent. You and your children might develop a better relationship because you’re spending more time just with each other. You and your former partner might both be happier and more fun to be with. You may appreciate the time you spend with your children more after your divorce.


How long will the adjustments take?

Before the divorce, you and your children knew what to expect of daily life. Once you divorce, the changes will happen fast. But it will take a lot longer for all the changes to feel normal. It can take between one and two years for children to adapt to their new situation. Think about your children’s feelings if you introduce any other changes, like a new partner.

You will help your children get through all of these changes, and they will be OK. Things won’t always be perfect, but after a while, things will get much easier.