May 11, 2018
No Place Like Home?
No Place Like Home?
“We’ve got to keep the house for the kids-no matter what. We’re already turning their worlds upside down with the divorce. We can’t tell them they have to move.”
This is the immediate reaction of many divorcing parents. It usually comes from the heart – out of love for their children. Other factors may also be at play: on guilt for divorcing, fear of the impact on the children from moving, or other parent focused reasons like “What will people think if I have to move?”
In many situations, children do benefit if they can keep living in their home after their parents’ divorce. But not always. And not at any cost.
Instead of making automatic or emotionally driven decisions, divorcing parents should ask themselves these questions:
- Does keeping the house make good financial sense?
The impact of a single parent struggling to pay for the house can directly affect children. The damage from financial stress on the psychological health of the parent can make a mom or a dad a less effective parent. Time spent working a second job to pay for the house rather than time with the children may not be may not be a better choice than a less costly living arrangement – especially during a transition that is difficult for parent and child.
- What does this house really mean to the child?
The psychological meaning of a home may not be the same for a child as it is for a parent. Once one parent leaves the family home, to the child it may never again be the family home – it’s not the same home without both mom and dad in it. Sometimes it’s less painful for a child to move than remain in a house where he’s reminded daily of the family he once but no longer has.
- If we move, will the new place be good enough?
Many kids, whether from one or two parent or extended family households, are raised in apartments, condos and in situations quite different from the single-family houses at the center of many divorce struggles. Most of these kids grow up to be happy, healthy and successful adults. So might alternative living arrangements be good or good enough even if not the same or the best?
- How resilient is our child?
Children move all the time. And not just because their parents have divorced. They move so their parents can take new jobs, for a better climate, or, sadly, because the mortgage is being foreclosed. Children, generally are resilient. Consider how your particular child does with change? And how much you and your child’s other parent can help your child adjust to the change rather than resist it?
These guidelines offer a starting point for divorcing parents wrestling with the often difficult question – What should we do about our house?
Thank you to Howard Krieger, PhD, Connecticut Resource Group, Waterbury, CT, for his assistance writing this column. Dr. Krieger can be reached at 203-573-9521 or www.connecticutresourcegroup.com.
Thank you too to RJ Media, who published this article in the May 3, 2018 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.
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