If you’re a divorcing parent with a toddler, you may believe (or at least hope) that they won’t remember any of this as adults. No one can say with certainty how much they will or won’t recall.
However, the more upsetting things are for them, the more likely they are to carry this with them, whether they realize it or not. That’s why it’s wise to keep their life as “routine” as possible in both homes.
What should you tell your toddler about the divorce?
One of the challenges with toddlers (those from about 1 to 3 years of age) is that they don’t have the vocabulary to put many questions and concerns into words. At this age, a child’s concerns revolve around themselves. If their parents are splitting up, they’ll want to know where they’ll live, where their toys and other belongings will be, and whether they’ll still be able to see both parents as well as caregivers, grandparents and playmates.
It’s always best if both parents can talk to their toddlers together. If that’s not possible, you should at least provide consistent information. Explain how the new living situation will work. For example, you can say that mom or dad is moving to another home, but they’ll get to spend several days a week with them and several with you in your current home – or a new one.
Help your child feel like both homes are theirs
Assuming that you’re sharing custody, it’s important to work out a schedule as soon as possible after you’ve separated. Then stick to it. Your toddler will feel more secure with a routine they can count on. Kids this age are very visual, so you can create calendars that they can decorate or otherwise individualize to keep in both homes.
Let your child help decorate their room in their new home(s) so they feel like it’s their own and they aren’t “visiting.” While you may not trust their taste in wallpaper or curtains, they can choose their bedding, pictures and nightlights. They should have toys, dolls, books and games in each home but be able to bring particular favorites back and forth.
Every divorce and every family is unique. Nonetheless, if you and your co-parent keep your focus on your toddler’s well-being, that can make your negotiations on all matters smoother and more amicable.