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Single Parenting: Explaining the "New Normal" to Kids After Divorce

Father son picnic

​​​This information is included in our Guide to Parenting for Today's Family. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

Divorce is an upheaval that is difficult for parents, children and extended family. There's no way around it, and unfortunately, it hits children the hardest. After all, they have been suddenly thrown into unfamiliar, unchartered territory, through no fault of their own. So how do you explain the new roles and new rules once Mom or Dad has left?

As a single parent, your children will have to take on new responsibilities to help out. It's a good idea to hold a family meeting as soon as possible to discuss these new responsibilities and tasks. Make sure the meeting is open and honest and that everyone can voice his or her feelings and opinions. Explain that you're still a family and that you all will need to pull together to make things work. In this first meeting, it's important to not overwhelm your children with a whole raft of new tasks right away. These can be spaced out and your kids can gradually take on their additional responsibilities over time. This is especially important with younger kids. Eventually, new routines will be created and a sense of normalcy will return.

Living arrangements, too, invariably change after divorce or separation.  When it h​appens, it will be a shock for your children. If at all possible, prepare your children before the separation by discussing how their living arrangements will change so they're more ready for it when it happens. 

Depending on their age, it also might be appropriate to let your children have some input on custody and visitation schedules.

It's critical that your children understand that while their living arrangements and roles are changing, one thing that will not change is the fact that you're still a family where everyone loves each other very much...  regardless of whose roof they're under.