If your child is still a toddler, you may believe your divorce isn’t going to affect them. They may or may not have clear memories of it when they’re an adult. However, a toddler can very much be affected in the present by their parents’ divorce.
They may not be able to express in words what they’re feeling or what questions they have, but that doesn’t mean they don’t notice – and respond to – the changes taking place in their life. They may respond by acting out – even more than usual for the typical toddler.
A toddler’s world generally revolves around their parents (and possibly other caregivers). They’ll notice if one of their parents is no longer around and if they’re moving back and forth between homes to be with one parent or another. That doesn’t mean this has to be confusing and traumatic for them. There are things all parents can do to make things easier for them.
Explain the divorce in a way they can understand
All your child needs to know is that you and your co-parent will be living in separate homes, that you’ll both be caring for them there (assuming you’ll have a time-sharing agreement) and that you love them just as much as always.
There are numerous books for toddlers about divorce that you can both read to them. They’ll probably have questions, and it’s important for the two of you to provide consistent answers.
Maintain their routine across your homes
Routine is very important for young children. Not only does it provide them with security, but it can help minimize behavioral issues. That means keeping consistent nap times, meal times and bedtimes across your homes.
It’s also important to provide toys, games, books and other items that make your child happy in both homes. If they have a one-of-a-kind favorite doll, stuffed animal or blanket, let them bring it back and forth. It can also help to let them have a say in picking out things for a new bedroom, like sheets and bedspreads.
You’ll probably need to modify your time sharing agreement more than once as your child enters new stages of their life. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give time and thought to working out this initial one. Having legal guidance can help you do what’s in your child’s best interests.