Divorce Is Hard, but These Items Have Made Living in 2 Homes Easier For My Kids
Divorce is no walk in the park. Even after the dust settles and new routines have been established, children of divorced parents must adapt to life in two homes. "Whose house am I at tonight?" and "Whose turn is it on Thanksgiving this year?" become routine questions and the answers are hard to keep up with — for everyone. My own kids have finally gotten the hang of the 50-50 custody schedule; I think they're fully adjusted to life after divorce. They have accepted that there will be no Parent Trap reunion in our future, and they have taken accountability for the transfer of their belongings from home to home. It wasn't always easy, but nothing rewarding ever is.
I've been a divorced mom of three kids for nine years now, and I've finally learned exactly what we need to make the transitions between my house and my ex's house smoother. Here are some of the products we use that help ease the challenges that are unique to kids in divorced homes.
Our Family Wizard
I have heard so many great things about Our Family Wizard ($100/year and up), a website and app that is designed to help families easily manage all of the intricate details that accompany shared parenting. The website features a shared calendar where parents can request modifications to custody schedules as needed — this is great in families like mine, who are juggling three (or more) sports schedules each season! There is also a section to track child-related finances. Our Family Wizard is particularly useful for those in high-conflict divorce, and if it prevents even just one argument in front of the kids, then it's worth every penny.
As the kids get used to transferring their most important and beloved items from home to home, I find it helpful to provide them with cute, personalized luggage, like this Lillian Vernon Pink Polka Dot Rolling Luggage ($60). In our house we call these the "dad bags" and I am constantly reminding my kids to "put that in your dad bag!" It helps minimize those dreaded last minute drop offs of any items the kids left at my house, but so desperately need at their father's!
Digital Picture Frame
This Atatat 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame ($60) is the perfect way to help my children feel close to my ex-spouse even when he is not near. I just pop in an SD card with pictures of my kids and my ex together, and include photos of grandparents and other relatives. My son loves looking through his photo collection at bedtime as it lets him know that I support his love for his dad — even after divorce.
My son has been begging for a cell phone for months, but at 9 years old, he is just too young in my opinion. In a two-family home, however, I often wish he had one, too. I like to stay connected to him on the days he is at his dad's house. The DokiPal Smartwach ($149, originally $180) is the perfect compromise! It helps us stay connected without the dangers and sophistication of unlimited digital access. The device is monitored by the DokiPal app on a parent's cell phone. Once activated, your child can communicate with you via the watch, but with age-appropriate limitations. While you can text him whatever you want from the app on your phone, he can only respond with preset responses ("I'm good, how are you" and "I'm hungry" are just a few options) or cute emojis. My son loves to take pictures on his smartwatch to share with me and I just may be slightly addicted to tracking his location on dad's days.
Other parents were quick to judge when I got my daughter a cell phone in fifth grade; "That's too young" or "What could she possibly need a phone for?!" were common responses. Well, in a divorced home, a cell phone is an extremely beneficial tool for both parent and child. I wanted to keep in touch with my daughter without my ex playing middleman. I loved knowing that she could contact me when she was feeling sad or distant or when she had exciting news to share — or when she simply wanted to say goodnight. We use Verizon, which offers a variety of Just Kids plans that make monitoring your child's screen time supereasy, and I've found that they have phones that cost nothing with an active plan. I got her an iPhone 7 ($349).
Dry Erase Calendar
I invested in a fun, large dry erase calendar, similar to this Etta Vee For Cambridge ($20) one from Target and hung it in my kids' bedrooms. They've adopted the habit of writing in their custody schedule (and other important events) for the upcoming week on Sunday nights. Then, my kids check in with me to see if anything has changed and it helps them stay one step ahead of the game.
Our Sharing Journal
The beautiful Our Sharing Journal ($14) was designed to spark meaningful communication between child and parent. I've found it a great way to stay connected when separated from my kids a few nights a week. Another option I've tried is to purchase a blank journal and have my children free write about their time at dad's house. And when they come back to my house, I get to read and respond! Sometimes I will write a simple question to my daughter like, "What did you do with your dad today?" Other times, when I am feeling brave, I dig a little deeper, and ask, "What is the hardest part of having divorced parents?" She knows she can always take a pass, but she rarely does.
My 2 Homes: A Game to Help Kids Understand and Accept Divorce
The My 2 Homes Board Game ($57) is designed to encourage children to address common issues of divorce, like dealing with two sets of rules in two separate homes, through play. It's often used in counselors officers but is perfectly appropriate for use at home with a parent. It's a great way to ensure that your kids are talking about their life after divorce. Board games have become a family bonding ritual in our home post-divorce, and we'll be trying this one out soon.
Everlast Prospect Youth Glove and Mit Kit
Kids need both an emotional and a physical outlet for their natural aggression and stress. This Everlast Prospect Youth Glove & Mitt Kit ($33, originally $40) is a great gift for my high-energy kids. The mitts are adjustable so both me and my kids can put them on, while they take turns throwing some hooks in the gloves. We like to blast some music and dance while we box, too. It's a great stress reliever!
The Irish Fairy Door Company Interactive Worry Plaque
If you have a sensitive child or one who is prone to anxiety and worry, check out the super cute The Irish Fairy Door Company Interactive Worry Plaque ($18). It helps ease anxiety, while subtly teaching children the art of letting go. When a child places their hand on the plaque, it turns red as the fairies listen to the child's worry. When the fairies are ready to take the worry away, the plaque turns green, and ta-da! The fairies have taken on your child's worries just like that. Sometimes all you need is a little magic, trust, and pixie dust. While we haven't tried this one, it would have been so helpful when my kids were younger.
The Long Distance Friendship Lamp
This unique and beautiful Long Distance Friendship Lamp ($95 and up) will let your kids know you are thinking of and loving them, even when you are apart. Here is how it works: both parties have a lamp in their home. When you touch your lamp, your child's lamp will emit the same glow — even if they are across the country! If you have more than one child, one lamp will do; you can assign each child their own color and let the light shine for each child. The only bad part about this one? If you have competitive kids like mine, they just may fight over which color is "theirs!"