When a couple with a toddler decides to part ways, the couple must understand that the separation of the parents can have a damaging effect on the child. If a toddler sees that one parent is away almost all of the time, except for during the visitation hours, that child may feel abandoned, which may lead to erratic behavior. Therefore, it is important for such parents in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the United States, to work together to make the divorce process as easy as possible for the toddler.
A few simple measures can go a long way in ensuring a smooth transition from a two-parent household to a one-parent household. For example, news of the divorce should be communicated to the toddler in advance and parents should explain to the child that one of the parents will not be living there any longer. It is crucial for parents to communicate that the child is not responsible for the divorce. It is also important to communicate that although the parents will not be living together anymore, they will continue to love the child forever.
Separating parents should also keep in mind that, voluntarily or involuntarily, they should not involve the child in their own emotional battles related to the divorce. Another bad thing for parents to do is to fight or criticize the other parent in front of the child. If they can manage to treat each other respectfully in front of the child, that child will not have to suffer unnecessary emotional stress. At the same time, separating parents should ensure that they are not placing their child in a situation of having to choose one parent over the other. Such a bind can cause tremendous tension and emotional distress.
Since a toddler may be confused by the sudden change in the family dynamics, it is important for the parents, especially the custodial parent, to structure a new routine and follow it as diligently as possible. The routine should also extend to the time that the child is spending with both parents. Finally, separating parents should speak with their child and encourage the child to talk to other people so that the child does not have suppressed feelings, which may eventually turn into long-term emotional problems.
Source: Huffington Post, "How to Help Your Toddler through Your Divorce," Dr. Gail Gross, March 18, 2015