Divorce is difficult for all who are involved, but none so much as the children. It is vital that divorcing parents address the needs of the children, and keep in mind that these needs differ with age. There are strategies, though, for helping very young children cope with divorce.
Young Children’s Needs
Young children up to 2 years old are learning to separate themselves from their parents and become more independent. This requires a stable, reassuring environment with regular routines that provide for smooth parent-to-parent transitions. Parents who neglect these basic foundations may cause separation distress in their children, which can then lead to parental disputes over the cause of the children’s behavior.
Developing a Parenting Plan
Parents who work together can develop a parenting plan that not only meets the child’s needs but also provides for extensive contact with each parent. A typical plan may provide for three contacts consisting of 3-6 hours each week, or perhaps two 3-6 hour contacts along with one overnight. Other plans might include more than one overnight with extended days.
Similarity is Essential
Any parenting plan should provide a stable, predictable and consistent environment for the child. This includes making the child’s bedroom and environment as similar as can be in each household, even using the same detergent to launder bedding and clothes, and the same soap and shampoo to bathe with.
Similarities in sleeping and feeding schedules may be even more crucial than environment. Parents might consider maintaining some type of notebook to record various routines such as eating times, foods eaten, waking and sleeping cycles, bowel movements, and various developmental milestones. This daily record of the child’s life should accompany the child as he or she travels between parents.