Kid sleeping

How Co-Parents Can Help Children Sleep After a Divorce

One of the hardest things a parent can go through during a divorce is seeing the impact it has on their children. It’s common for parents to fervently desire that their children adjust to the new post-divorce way of living. When a child struggles with sleeping as they shuttle back and forth between two homes, both parents may be looking for ways to help their child sleep after a divorce.

The first thing we would suggest is to remind yourself that this problem is far from uncommon. Studies have shown that anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent of children struggle with sleeping. There’s no reason for divorced parents to panic or feel guilty. The calm implementation of some constructive measures may help

Emphasize Structure and Routine

A lack of sleep is often a byproduct of anxiety. That’s true for both adults and children. As adults, we can address our anxiety by establishing routines that help settle us down. Our kids need us to act on their behalf in establishing good structure. 

That can mean making sure they have clothes, toiletries, and other basics at both houses. Nothing upsets structure and routine like the feeling that you’re always traveling. The child always packing up their travel bag is unlikely to feel structured. Getting your child set up in their own room, with their own dresser and their own things at both houses is a great way to help them settle into a routine.

We know it’s highly unlikely to keep a child’s routine exactly the same at both houses. It is important, however, that each house individually maintains a consistency of routine and rules. Kids can adjust to understanding different rules for different settings. That’s easier if they feel at home in both places and the rules in each house aren’t changing.

Involve Your Children

Let your children have age-appropriate involvement in matters that directly affect them. For example, involve them in how their room is going to be decorated. Talk to them about the routines and rules they will be expected to live by and–within reason--take their feelings into consideration.

We are not suggesting that children be able to set their own rules. But they are dealing with tumult in their life, perhaps even more so than the parents. Listening to them and, when appropriate, acting on their ideas, can help them settle into a new life.

A part of listening may mean listening to their feelings about the divorce. It’s very likely this will be difficult for the parent to hear. We know it’s hard. But there’s a good chance it will help and simply being heard can be therapeutic for children.

Pitfalls To Avoid

It’s strongly advised that parents not let their children crawl into bed with them. We know that a child might genuinely feel fear, especially in the immediate aftermath of the divorce. But presuming they are old enough to have their own bed, that’s where they should sleep. They need to get into a new routine. If that routine ends up being snuggling up next to you each night, they are only becoming more dependent.

Finally, it’s imperative not to talk negatively about your ex-spouse when the children are around. There may well be very hard feelings between you and your ex, and your own bad feelings can certainly be justified. It never helps anyone to involve the children though.

Even if you just argue with your ex when you think the kids can’t hear you, children are very sensitive. If they don’t overhear you directly, they are more likely to pick up on body language and other emotional cues telling them something is not right. Which can lead to anxiety. Which can lead to sleep problems.

We know going through a divorce with children is hard. The best way to help your kids adjust is to make the divorce process itself as professional and responsible as possible. Pacific Cascade Family Law has experience in helping our clients negotiate settlements that are fair and help everyone move forward to the next stage in life. If you’re facing divorce, call us today at (888) 981-9511 or contact us online to set up an initial consultation.

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