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Helping children cope with a long distance move following divorce

For children, no matter their age, the divorce of parents marks a huge shift in their identity. Instead of being part of one intact family, they are now part of two families, maybe more if the parents have moved on and remarried. When a divorced parent relocates, the risk that the move will negatively impact the child increases, as the child will go from seeing the noncustodial parent every day or every other weekend to once or twice a year for vacations and some holidays. So, how can parents help their children through this difficult time?

Undermining a child's security contributes to adjustment issues

Research suggests that circumstances contributing to maladjustment in children following divorce are those in which the child's school is changed, a previously unemployed mother starts to work, or the child moves to a new home or neighborhood. However, we all know that the economics of divorce makes many of these changes inevitable. The child's ability to cope depends on his or her psychological or academic status at the time of the move, with greater resilience seen in those children who were stable in these areas prior to the split.

Factors contributing to the positive adjustment of children following divorce where a noncustodial parent had moved away include:

  • the presence of a positive relationship between the child and relocating parent
  • low level of conflict between parents
  • a custodial parent that adjusted positively to the divorce and move

Eliminate unnecessary changes in the child's life

Whether the custodial or noncustodial parent is relocating, experts recommend that you eliminate unnecessary changes in your child's life. If the noncustodial parent is moving, do not change schools. Stay in the family home if possible, even if it is only for a few months following the divorce. Maintain your routine for bedtimes, mornings, and after school. This continuity and stability are of paramount importance to enable children's positive development and adjustment following divorce, particularly when there is a parental relocation.

Say goodbye to the family home

If the home that your family lived in while you were married will be sold, remember that regardless of the child's age, the family home is a familiar and safe place (usually). When that house is sold to a new owner, it marks the end of the family and life they knew, ending a major chapter of their childhood story. This can be difficult for adults and children alike when their parents divorce. If circumstances allow, have your child visit the home and help with packing or moving. Let them take a memento from the home and provide an opportunity to say goodbye and gain closure.

Divorce often necessitates relocation in some form. When parents make regular contact with children a priority and follow through, life forges ahead and children adjust.

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Hecht Family Law
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Alpharetta, GA 30004

Phone: 678-926-9234
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