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Avoiding “Hotel” Syndrome in Children of Divorce

by Lori Sciame | April 4th, 2011 | Elementary

When you check into a hotel you expect to relax. You want to be pampered.

Make the bed? No way! Clean the bathroom? That’s the maid’s job! But sometimes, children of divorce begin to treat your home in a similar manner – like they are living in a hotel with a resident maid.

Is it natural for a parent to want to spoil a child when he or she arrives for a custodial visit? Yes, of course! But it is important to realize that waiting on your child hand and foot with no rules or expectations can lead to negative consequences. Some of these include:

  • The child may end up lacking knowledge on how to complete tasks necessary for daily living, such as when and how to change bed linens.
  • The child may be slow to realize that there are consequences for actions. For example, this can happen if the child throws his or her dirty clothes on the floor after which the parent washes them.
  • The child may not feel “trusted” to do simple tasks (such as vacuuming), and as a result, may not develop a strong sense of independence.
  • The child may not claim ownership of his or her bedroom. This could lead to feelings of detachment from the household.

Every parent wants to build a lasting relationship with his or her child, and by making sure your house feels like a home instead of a hotel during custodial visits is one way to develop this relationship. Consider the following:

  1. Set clear rules. This may be difficult to do if your time is limited with your child; however, expectations and rules pay off in the long run. Children who can follow rules have an easier time adjusting to life as an adult.
  2. Give your child responsibilities. Instead of doing everything for your children, make sure they have a few responsibilities around the house. This lets them know that you trust them, that you feel they are competent. Think about it – if a child is allowed to care for his or her room, then they will feel more invested in it; it will be “home.”
  3. Ease stress. Moving between households is stressful on a child. Work diligently to ease this stress by helping the child to pack and unpack. Also provide the equipment necessary for making these moves easier. Finally, talk about the stressors your child faces, such as the different sets of rules between households.
  4. Put out the welcome mat. Let your children know that he or she is always welcome. This leads to a feelings of ownership of his or her bedroom. Of course, individual circumstances must be taken into account, such as the distance between the child’s homes, but if at all possible, let your child know he or she is welcome even when it is not the “correct” time.

Divorce is difficult on children; however, making your house a home instead of a “hotel” will make these transitions easier.

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