Making their second house a homely one
ASK THE EXPERT:Q My wife and I separated recently. There was no one else involved. We have two children (girls) aged eight and six. Both girls are happy where they live with an extensive network of friends. For practical reasons it was decided that I would move out of the family home.
I have established myself in a new location about 10 minutes’ drive from the family home. My ex and I have decided that the children should stay with me on Wednesday and Saturday nights. While I have been reasonably successful in establishing a routine on Wednesdays, most of the time the girls end up back in the homestead on Saturdays playing with their friends.
I am receiving conflicting advice as to how I should proceed. On the one hand, I’m told that if you establish a firm and fixed routine, the girls will adapt. On the other, I’m told to take it slowly and allow the girls to find their own rhythm. If I don’t, then my children could end up resenting staying in the new location.
My ex is of one mind and I am of the other in this regard. I have always been heavily involved in the rearing of our children and am frustrated and anxious about the future. However, I would be willing to follow either path if it’s good for the children.
AGenerally, the parent who leaves the family home post-separation can be at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining contact and being actively involved in their children’s lives. Moving out can mean that you have less time with your children, and you have the extra challenge of establishing a new home, both for you and your children.
As you have discovered, children tend to have an attachment to the original family home and to their established networks of school, and local friends and amenities.
This attachment can become important post-separation as they have been through many changes and they often feel secure by keeping some things the same in their lives. Establishing a new home for your children in a different locality can take time and patience. Initially, the new home can be uninviting and children can miss their familiar friends, toys and routines.
In these situations, it is easy to feel rejected as a parent and you may be tempted to back off.
However, it is important to realise that your girls need a quality relationship with you more than ever post-separation and you have to work harder as the non-residential parent to stay involved.
Taking into account your girls’ welfare, what would help them the most?
You are receiving conflicting advice that you should either go at their pace and respect their natural gravitation back to the family home or that you should “put your foot down” and insist they spend Saturday nights with you.
I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle and you have to take into account both principles. I think you need to understand that they need some stability in their lives and that doing some of the “same things” on a Saturday night is helpful for them, but equally you need to begin to establish a new routine with them post-separation that matches the long term.