Parenting Problems/Tips

Ask Elaine: Divorce and Your Child

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Ask Elaine Divorce
This is the second post in a series called “Ask Elaine.” Elaine is a mom of three grown boys and an Early Childhood Intervention Specialist with over 25 years of teaching experience in both general education and children with special needs.  She will be answering questions from readers once a month…behavior problems are her specialty! If you have a question for Elaine, please email them to

Reader Question: My husband and I are getting divorced. What can I do to make sure my four-year-old daughter isn’t negatively affected by the change?

Elaine’s Answer: Going through a divorce isn’t fun for anyone, and children will surely pick up on your vibes.

Try as best you can to keep things “normal.”

It’s also a good idea to keep your daughter’s schedule the same (or at least close to the same) when she is either at Dad’s house or Mom’s house. Bed time, bath time, and meals should follow their regular schedule.

Please, please, please, refrain from “bad-mouthing” your husband. Your child should never hear you speak poorly of the other parent. Keep those moments to yourself or make sure to only express them when your daughter’s not around.  

Help your daughter know when she will see her father. For young children- keep a simple chart- no more than a week (seven days) showing them when it will be a “Mommy Day” and when it will be a “Daddy Day.”  

Child Custody Calendar

You can download a blank printable calendar from EPrintCalendar and then customize it for your child.

Use simple pictures on the fridge or bedroom closet the night before so they will know ahead of time what’s going on. The older they get, the more they will understand the idea of a calendar. Again- don’t do more than a week at a time.

Kids trust their parents, so if you say it’s a “Daddy Day,” make sure that can and will happen.

It’s normal for your child to push the limits. She is going to feel like she has no control over what is going on around her.

Try to find those moments when you CAN give her some control. Children can and should make “kid-sized” choices- do you want to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt? Should we have chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese? Which story should we read before bed? Do you want a piggyback ride or a wheelbarrow walk to bed? Get the picture?

Your daughter needs both of you, and keep in mind that you and her father will do things differently…approach things from a different angle. Handle those little moments in their own way.

Know that it’s okay; in fact, it’s good for children to see different perspectives. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it.  

Most importantly, prepare your daughter ahead of time for what she can expect, give her choices, and give her lots of love and attention. Good luck!

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Do you have a question for Elaine? Email or leave a comment below.

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  • Jessica @EatSleepBe
    March 6, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    I love that calendar idea and the way it makes life seem so exciting!

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