If you're separated or divorcing and you have children, you know how the complexity and change can sometimes hide or overwhelm the needs of the children.
Change creates huge issues for you and the needs of the children, whilst simple aren't always apparent.
So what are a few of the things children need (beyond those relating to your behaviour & that of their mother) to help them feel safe during a time of such enormous change ?
They may actually need something that you aren't even thinking about, or can't consider because there are simply so many changes in your own life.
Children as we all know crave predictability. Whilst they are "resilient", can "adapt" very well and will "cope" with almost any circumstance, they get a sense of safety and security knowing that things are going to happen in a certain way and to see that they do actually happen that way.
They need Predictability.
Stick to the parenting plan or the arrangements.
Get a parenting plan. Write it down and sign the damn thing - get agreement from their mother as well. DO NOT change it at the last minute even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for you. Plan your life around it. They need to trust you.
If it does change for whatever reason, sit down with them and explain why and what it has changed to. Use a calendar if necessary. My youngest (8) finds this really helpful, he and I talk about changeovers and pickup days religiously, even when there is no change at all. Often I talk to him, with a calendar handy, or call it up on my phone to show him as we talk.
Do what you say you're going to do.
If you say you are going to pick them up at 4:00pm for the
weekend - be there at 4:00pm and have them for the whole weekend as
promised. Sounds simple yes? Just do it.
Have a routine when they get to your place.
Do it every time. In the early days of my separation I got the kids to have a shower and a change of clothes when they arrived at my place to give them a break point with a fresh start. It could be a glass of milo and a talk about the upcoming time with you. Whatever you decide, make it fun, and do it every time. Doing this will help them to focus on simply 'being' with you in your home.
Give them their own room to leave their stuff when they're not there.
Feeling welcome is a big part of any change of scenery. If you are a regular guest somewhere and you are not sure where your bed is going to be, or if it needs to be made up when you get there, every single time. How would you feel? A space of their own, and bed that's theirs will give them powerful a feeling of belonging & security when they come to your place. Don't move stuff when they're not there - even if it's to 'tidy up'. If you need to 'tidy' do it with them while they are with you, maybe before they go. But don't touch their things when they are not there.
Predictability for them may seem minor in your big picture of divorce, court hearings, verbal attacks and money problems.
From your child's point of view, these are important matters and will give them a sense of security and confidence when they are with you, their stuff, their time and they themselves are respected & protected by you.