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Mom watches from car as her little girl runs to her dad

Separation: Helping Kids Adapt to a New Home

This blog was written by Z. Andrew Jatau, CHKD’s fatherhood consultant. If you’re a dad with a parenting question, send your question to Z. Andrew for his next blog. Forward your questions to ZAndrew.Jatau.@CHKD.org.

This question came from a local dad:

“My wife and I are separating. I moved out of our house and got an apartment for now. I have two daughters, 9 and 10. It’s been hard for all of us, but my 10-year-old doesn’t like coming to my apartment because all of her friends are in the neighborhood where her mom still lives. She considers that home. How can I help her feel more at home at my place? Any suggestions?”

Thank you for your question!

Parental separation can be especially difficult for children. It is a disruption to their routine and the family structure they’ve known for their entire lives. They have to learn to adjust to changes in their family while trying to navigate uncomfortable feelings. With all of the change that is occurring, it makes sense for your daughter to cling to the familiar like Mom’s house and her friends. During hard times, the things they have learned to count on become even more important for kids. With that said, they also have to learn to adapt to changes even if they don’t like it. It’s up to the adults to do what they can to help ease the transition.

Here are a few suggestions that might help with your daughter.

Reassurance

Through this time, your daughter is probably seeking stability of some sort. The neighborhood where her mother still resides might be a place of comfort and familiarity for her. She considers this to be her home and may be resistant to giving that title to any place else. It is important to show her that you understand and fully support her reason for not wanting to come over. You can provide her with reassurance that you aren’t trying to replace her home and that the important thing is just wanting to spend quality time with her.

Make Small Changes

New things are often scary. It can take a while to fully get used to a new environment. It can be helpful to keep some things the same. You can think of fun things you did together when you lived in the home, and plan to do those activities when she comes to visit. Maybe allow her to invite one of her friends along, and they can do something fun at your place or in your neighborhood. Think of additional ways to make the time more exciting and engaging for her. Add a few “new” traditions at your house or allow her to pick décor for her room and claim her space there. This can help her cope with the feelings of sadness or anxiety she may be experiencing from leaving home.

Ask Her

Sometimes, as adults, we try to make decisions for our children that we feel are in their best interest without seeking their input. Ask your daughter what could be done to help her feel more comfortable, and she might be able to tell you. You can work together as a team to help her find ways to feel more “at home” when she visits. This might include making some of the previously mentioned changes or helping her facilitate friendships within the neighborhood.

I hope this was helpful!

Be sure to check out CHKD Community Connections events at CHKD.org/Classes and tune in for our online Dad Talks where you can get your questions answered live.



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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew Jatau is a Licensed Professional Counselor and content creator currently working at Hopscotch, a leading pediatric behavioral health company.  He is the founder and CEO of Mylemarks, a website dedicated to providing engaging social-emotional resources for children and adolescents.  Andrew has worked in a number of settings providing mental health services to youth and families, including a day treatment center, a university counseling center, and most recently, a private practice in Virginia Beach.  He previously served as a Fatherhood Consultant with CHKD, helping to organize and facilitate fatherhood programs in the Hampton Roads area.  Andrew resides in Aurora, CO with his wife and two daughters.