2) Residence shifts are best viewed as
just "address changes" for the relocating child/ren. These
shifts work best long-term when everyone affected feels their needs and opinions have been
(A D ?)
3) Child-dwelling and custody
changes should be made by all
affected parents, including stepparents - not by minor kids,
siblings, legal or counseling professionals, or relatives. Asking a child
"Do you want to live with me or your (other parent)?" abdicates parental
responsibility and risks overwhelming a child with confusion, guilt, and
anxiety. Learning and considering
kids' feelings and wishes in choosing their primary residence is important
(A D ?)
who know how to
to discern the
(plural) that motivate
a child's residence change have better chances for a smooth transition
than adults who focus only on surface needs. (A D ?)
5) Parents who (a) understand
them to erupt before, during, and after a child changes homes, and who (c)
can use effective-communication
to resolve all three
stressors are more likely to have smooth transitions. (A D ?)
you're thinking and feeling. How do your beliefs compare with these
Why Change Residences?
There are healthy and unhealthy reasons to change. Healthy means "the overall long-term quality of everyone's
personal growth and family relationships is improved by this change."
An alternate definition is "the
of both homes
remains the same or improves over time because of this change." Reasons
refer to the parents' primary needs that cause the child to
What are some healthy
We parents need the safety and the
of all our kids to increase.
We need the frequency
and intensity of child-related conflicts in and between both homes to
We need this child to
experience a balance of nurturing from male and female parents.
We need to protect and
strengthen the primary relationship/s (e.g. marriages) in each parenting home, long term.
We need to resolve a
local family crisis (e.g. a disabled or overwhelmed custodial parent), and
can see no better solution than a (temporary or permanent) residence change.
Do you see other healthy reasons for a child's residence change? Here
are some unhealthy primary reasons...
punish or get revenge on someone
someone's financial security
To appease an
aggressive or controlling family member or other person
accommodate a child's desires for more freedom, less limits, and/or
things like a bigger room, a PC, car, TV, phone, pet, "better school,"
different friends, "more fun,"...
provide companionship and/or life-purpose for the receiving adult
lower conflicts between a stepparent and a
child and/or stepsiblings who "don't like each other" and
"can't get along"
avoid admitting that someone made
avoid responsibility for improving parents'
appease someone who feels strongly that a
child "needs a sibling"
a parent's excessive
follow the advice of some lay or professional "expert"
avoid difficult parental responsibilities
stressful adult court battles and legal expenses
avoid someone's grief over major losses (broken bonds)
(Add your own)
Do you agree that some primary reasons for a child's residence change
are healthier than others? Note that there are more unhealthy
reasons than healthy ones, and there are lots of chances for
denial here - i.e. parents' masking
or ignoring their real motives for a residence change. Such denials
occur when one or more parents are
(want to) admit that.
Whether your adults have healthy reasons and an effective
change-management plan or not...
Changes Can You Expect?
Each resident in your two homes will experience subtle to jarring changes
your child's relocation "sinks in." The combined changes will affect your individual and
harmony or stress. See which of these shifts in and between
your two homes are likely to be significant in your unique
- who's needs get the most attention,
from whom, and what needs?
and special routines - like who
gets the bathroom first, getting ready for school and work, rejoining after
school or work, who watches what
on TV, dinner times, home-maintenance chores, laundry, grocery shopping, getting ready for bed, and what happens in the house on typical
- a role is a
set of home and family responsibilities, like taking out the trash, paying the bills,
feeding pets, and setting and enforcing disciplinary limits. Your child's
moving will alter many responsibilities and
rules (how roles are
performed, and by whom) in both homes - specially if accompanied by a
legal-custody change. Role and rule changes will probably
create some disputes over who gets to do what, or doesn't have to do
Finances - this may be a
significant source of transitional conflict, as regular and special child-support and living expenses shift
Insurance coverages and/or visitation expenses may shift. Conflicts are specially likely if the child's
custody, and child-support
changes are court-ordered. Conflicts over "money" are
really about money!
Companionships and alliances
- residents in each home will adjust who they spend time with, and how.
Siblings may lose or gain a playmate, or a nurturing or antagonistic older
(step)brother or sister.
More changes to expect from a child changing homes...
and couple privacies - adults and kids all will experience a little to a
lot more "alone time." The noise level in both homes may shift,
which may affect privacies and intimacy.
Space - A bed, closet, drawers, and part or all of a bedroom will empty in the
original dwelling, and fill up in the receiving home. Kids may gain or lose a
roommate, wanted or not. Meals will feature an empty chair in one home, and a
filled chair in the other.
conversational focus - the pattern of what residents talk about, and with
whom, will change - probably including telephone, texting, and e-mail patterns.
- the complex pattern
of roles, boundaries, ranks, and communication dynamics - i.e. how each home "runs"
- will alter. So will the
emotional "tone" - the sets of most-prevalent emotions in
adults and kids. The [peace > stress], [secure > anxious], and
balances are likely to shift in one or both dwellings.
Child-visitation routines - the frequency, duration, and logistics (like who
plans, packs, and drives), of shuttling one or more kids to visit their other
parent will change.
parenting responsibilities and documents -
parenting agreements may shift informally or by court order. So will primary adult
supervision of the child's schooling, church, hygiene, health, socializing,
and special activities. Day-care and/or baby sitting details may
More changes to expect from a child changing homes...
and special meals - the patterns of grocery shopping, food
preparation, eating and "table-talk," snacking, and cleaning up will
- birthdays, anniversaries, graduations,
vacations, prayers, and other traditional events will change;
with kin, friends, and acquaintances will change. Adults may lose or gain
relationships with the child's friends' parents; the child will probably
gain new friends and lose old ones. The frequency and nature of contact with
some relatives may grow or shrink for each person in both homes. If a
bioparent is single, their dating attitudes and behaviors may change.
identities - i.e. how each adult and child
labels themselves as individuals. "I'm the custodial father of two sons" becomes "... of one son." "I'm a
full-time stepmom" turns into "...a part time..." "I live
with my two sisters, my mom, and my stepdad," shifts to "I live with
my dad and his Basset Hound."
School routines and study habits
- the child may shift schools, courses and teachers. The attitudes and rules
about homework and school performance in the receiving home may be
parents and co-grandparents may gain or lose
self respect when a
child changes homes, as in "I've done a good/bad job as
a caregiver." Relatives and family friends may shift their
opinions of the child's parents as persons, and/or in their
caregiving roles. Custodial stepparents may feel
differently about themselves and/or their partner too.
Expectations, hopes, and fears about the future
changes in these can range from minor to major, as in "This summer won't be the
same," to "I thought I'd be able to use my sister's car when I got
my license," to "Now we can (or can't) think about moving to
Colorado and having a baby!"
person's set of
dwelling changes usually cause
losses (broken attachments, or bonds). These add to each child's and adult's
set of prior childhood, divorce or death, and family-formation losses
that need to be mourned and accepted. And...
in child-related activities or groups
may shift, like T-ball, church groups, Rainbows, Indian Princesses or
Scouts, school bands or teams, etc.
Add your own changes...
Did you realize how many things would change when your child
relocates? Like dominos, each of these 20 (!) shifts causes secondary changes to ripple through your
many homes. The whole intricate web of your emotional lives and
relationships will oscillate for months, until each of your family
grieves what they've lost
well enough and stabilizes their new routines, plans, and expectations.
This is another reason for you
adults to assess
and invest conscious
effort in evolving a meaningful
for your homes and family (i.e. to
The more change-planning discussions your
parents and kids have had, the more chance you've had to do anticipatory grief
(mourning before your losses occur), and the faster you
may recover your personal and household
and move on. Does
anything hinder such discussions among you?
I hope this summary of changes motivates you parents to (a) plan the change
well, (b) be
of your thoughts, feelings, and needs while the residence-change is
stabilizing, and (c) ask for support you need without
undue anxiety, guilt, or shame.
Each of your adults and kids will adjust to
all these changes at their own pace, in their own way - e.g. privately or
socially, quickly or slowly, intellectually or emotionally, dramatically or
calmly... There is no "best" way to adjust, like there is no
Everyone in your sending and receiving homes will have special needs during your residence-change process.
Everyone's emotional security and
harmony will grow if you parents (a) are aware of these special needs and
each other fill them as teammates. What needs?
Kids' Common Transition Needs
When a child in your family changes full-time homes, all residents in both
homes gain new needs (discomforts). Most
minor kids need help in identifying their
needs, and learning to
describe them in ways that make sense to themselves and their caregivers. Do
you remember what that learning process was like?
Pause and recall what it was like when you left your childhood home. Then browse this collection of typical home-changing needs to see which probably
fit each of your kids - not just the girl or boy who is moving...
Learn what the
rules (shoulds, oughts, and
musts) are in the new residence, and what happens when they get
broken. Learn "How much freedom do I have here?" Other
key rules have to do with feeling and expressing strong
emotions, like anger, fear, guilt, shame, and sadness.
in charge of each home
now - who makes the major decisions?"
Learn "What are my
roles here: what
do others expect of me, as a boy/girl, step/child, house
resident, student, neighbor, church member, relative, and person?"
Learn "How much
power do I have
here: who can I get to act if I assert my needs and wants?"
Learn "Who can I
trust here - who
can I tell and show my feelings, needs, and opinions to safely, with-out
being ridiculed, ignored, or rejected?" This need affects how safe the
child feels to grieve significant losses.
am I physically and emotionally
A major underlying question kids have in most
homes is "Will these (caregivers) stay together and not break up, like all
my prior homes and families have?"
Learn "Who can I
play with / enjoy
being with in this home and neighborhood?
Learn my territory
area/s of this home do I have access to, and which spaces are mine
alone (rooms, closets, shelves, drawers, etc.)? Will I have enough privacy?"
Learn what's the
routine here - who does what
when, in what order? One possibility is "the routine in this home is no
Learn are there any
here? If so, what happens to people who disclose or break them?
Learn "What are the
priorities in this
home? How do other people's rankings mesh with mine? When
we disagree, who wins?"
Learn are all the people I care about OK enough
now that I've moved? For instance "Is my little sister / depressed
father / friend next door / pet OK enough without me being there?"
"Will my grandmother stop being angry at my father for making me move?" There are many variations on this one! A related need is to learn "How does each person in my new house feel
about (a) me, about (b) me living here now, and about (c) how
I came to live here?" Am I among friends, critics, or ghosts?
Learn "If I don't like it here,
to my other home? e.g. "George, after all this uproar, if your little
princess doesn't like living with her mother don't expect me to welcome her back into this home..."
Learn "What will
visitations (with my
other parent/s, siblings, and/or special relatives) be like now?" and "Can I talk with the people in my other home
on the phone when and as long as I wish?"
Kids who blame
themselves for forcing their residence change need to reduce excessive
guilt and rebuild
their self-respect (if they had
that to begin with)...
Kids who were forced
to move against their wishes need to feel and express their hurt, anger, and resentments safely. They also need
to clarify "Why do I have to move?" These
are key parts of healthy grieving.
Learn "Will I like
the kids and
teachers at my new school? Will they like me? Will it be fun or
really bad? Will there be too much homework? How will I get
to and home from school? Do I have the right
clothes? Can I get into the activity I really liked at my other
school? and... What's this neighborhood town like: what's here and