Living with parents after divorce

Table of Contents

Your Guide To Moving Back In With Your Parents

Never thought you’d be back where you started? Well, it’s just a chance for a fresh start.

Back when you left your parents’ home to follow your own path in life – be it to go to college, get married, or start a job in another city – you probably never thought that you would ever return for longer than a visit. Yet, several years later, you may find yourself at the threshold of your childhood home, with all your earthly possessions in tow, yearning for a safe and peaceful (and free!) place to stay.

You’re certain to have mixed emotions about it (frustration, depression, gratitude, relief, and myriads more), but moving back home may be the right step to take (even if it feels like a step backwards at the moment) in order to get where you want to be – financially, professionally, and emotionally. You’ll have your family’s moral and material support, so that you can get on your feet and move on with your life.

Living with your parents after years of living on your own, however, is likely to be a great challenge – you need to find a way to be your adult self and do your own thing while still showing respect and gratitude to mom and dad.

So, if you’re considering moving back in with your parents, you’re going to need some proven strategies that will allow you to make things easier for everyone. And you will need to give it all a very good thought.

Should I Move Back Home?

First things first, you need to be sure that moving back with your parents is what you really want to do.

Reasons to Move Back Home

If you’re even considering the idea, then you certainly have some good reasons to sacrifice your independence and seek out the security and comfort of your old home:

  • Moving back home to save money – Financial struggles are the number one reason for adult children to move back in with their parents – especially if they have lost a job or can’t find one just after graduation. After all, a small income (or no income at all) and lofty mortgage prices make a very bad combination that pushes young people to move in with their mom and dad in order to get control of their finances and get out of debt as quickly as possible. Even youths who don’t experience serious financial difficulties often opt to move back home in order to save up for a down payment on a house or build up an emergency fund before starting to live on their own;
  • Moving back with parents after college – It is quite common for young people to move back home after graduation – in fact, it has become a norm for graduates to live with their parents for a couple of year after college. This comes as no surprise – considering the increasing cost of higher education, most young people nowadays graduate with a considerable student loan debt. Even if they’re able to find a well-paying job soon after graduation, living at home after college provides them with the opportunity to pay off their debt (or at least, make a dent in it) and build a financial foundation for their future. And if they don’t find employment right away, young graduates will have little choice but to return home and count on their parents to provide for them until they get a job;
  • Moving back in with parents after a breakup – Usually, home is exactly where a person needs to be when going through an emotional turmoil. It is only natural then that moving back home after a divorce or a breakup seems like the logical choice for many young people who have recently ended a relationship. Their family home is a safe haven where they can recover from the painful breakup and make plans for the future, not to mention how invaluable their parents’ emotional support is in such a difficult period;

    One penny closer to your dreams…

  • Moving back home with a baby – A young couple (or a single parent) may decide to move back home with their baby in order to get help looking after the child or to avoid paying rent, so that they’re able to save money for their own home in the near future;
  • Moving back home to care for elderly parents – Seniors who can no longer cope on their own but don’t want to move to assisted living may ask their children to move back home and help them during the last years of their lives – this scenario is completely different from the ones discussed above, but it still ends up with adults moving back in with their parents.

Whatever your personal reasons to return to your childhood home, you need to be sure that this is the right step to take.

Benefits of Moving Back with Parents

When you move back in with mom and dad, you’ll be able to count on their support and will have the time to figure out who you are and what you want. You’ll be able to get a direction in life before you hit the road:

  • You’ll be able to save a lot of money – Your parents will either charge a very small rent or no rent at all, so you’ll be able to put all the money you’d have spent on housing expenses in a savings account. Besides, you’ll spend much less on food and utilities when living with your parents than when living on your own;
  • You’ll have the chance to get a good job – When living under your parents’ roof, you won’t have to worry about rent or other urgent expenses, so you won’t have to take the first job offer you get just because you desperately need the money. You’ll have enough time to research your employment options, apply for several positions, and wait until you find a job you really love;
  • You’ll be living with people who care for you – Whether you’re sick or depressed, mom and dad will be there to look after you, help you with whatever they can, and cheer you up. You’ll never feel lonely or ignored when home;
  • You’ll have strong emotional support – Your parents love you and will always be there for you, especially in a difficult situation – they accept you for who you are and will support your actions until you get back on your feet and feel strong enough, financially and emotionally, to be on your own again;
  • The food will be great – You’ll be able to enjoy warm home-cooked meals much more often than when living on your own – even if you don’t have the time to cook, your mom may have something ready on the table by the time you come home from work. Besides, she’ll remember your favorite meals and will prepare them for you from time to time;
  • You won’t have a lot of housework to do – Your parents will maintain their home as they have always done, so even though you’ll have some household chores to take care of, they will be considerably less than when living in your own place;
  • Your parents will help you take care of your kids (if you have any) – Your parents’ financial, physical, and mental support will be invaluable if you’re a single mom or dad, but even if that is not the case, their help will still be of great use to you – there will be someone to look after the young ones when you’re at work or when you want to spend a romantic evening with your partner, someone to pick them from school and take them where they need to go, etc.;

    The sense of peace, coziness, and warmth you’re going to get when living in your parents’ home cannot be compared to anything else.

  • You’ll get closer to your parents – When living at home, you’ll spend a lot of time with your folks and will get to really know them. Since you’re an adult now, you’ll be able to talk about things you have never discussed before. You’ll see your parents in a completely different light and will be able to better appreciate what they’ve done for you;
  • You’ll be sure that mom and dad are doing fine – As you live with your parents, you’ll be able to help them and make them feel better, to make sure that they have everything they need and get proper medical care, etc. It’s a great relief to know that your family is well and safe.

Despite all those great advantages, however, moving back in with your parents has some significant drawbacks as well. Even if you’re really close with mom and dad.

Disadvantages of Living with Your Parents

So, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin:

  • You’ll lose some of your freedom – If you’re living in your parents’ home, you’ll have to respect their rules;
  • You’ll have your privacy invaded – Mom and dad are likely to be curious about your life and demand to know where you’re going, who you’re spending your time with, how’s your progress at work, what happened between you and your ex, and so on and so on. Besides, you won’t be able to head to the kitchen in your underwear or play your music loud late at night;
  • You’ll get a lot of unwanted advice – Your parents will inevitably start getting on you about going back to school, finding a better job, getting married, etc. And the worst part is that they’re going to tell you exactly how to do so. You will even hear their opinions about the food that you eat, the time that you sleep, or the number of hours you spend in front of the TV;
  • Your social activities will be limited – You won’t be able to throw house parties or have your friends (or your date) over for the night. You may even be asked to get home before dark!
  • You’ll lose some of your self-esteem – If you’ve returned home because of financial problems or an emotional breakdown, you may feel like you have failed in life. It can be quite frustrating;
  • You’ll feel embarrassed – Friends and colleagues may even make fun of you for living with your folks at 30;
  • You’ll be treated like a child – No matter how old you’re, you’ll always be your parent’s little kid. They will be protective, inquisitive, and authoritative – it’s unavoidable;

    It may be really difficult to keep your privacy in your parents’ home.

  • You may cross swords with your parents – It may be difficult to avoid clashes, considering the generational gap between you and your parents (especially if they’re too judgmental and you’re too inconsiderate of their feelings and believes). The difference in your outlooks towards life will be amplified by whatever little arguments you have over trivial household issues and may result in a major fight.

SEE ALSO: Pros and cons of moving out of parents’ house

Having considered all of the above, you should be able to find the right answer to the difficult questions: “Should I move back in with my parents? Is moving back home a good idea?” If the answer is yes, then you need to prepare well for your move and find a way to make the transitions smooth and easy.

I moved out of parents house and in with my boyfriend at the ripe old age of 19. One day, I lay dreaming in a twin bed in my mother’s basement, the next I was playing big girl pretend in a one-bedroom apartment in a boxy building complex.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” my friends whispered as they helped me lug a hand-me-down sofa up two flights of stairs.

“Is this really want you want to do?” questioned my mother, as she watched me untack my Van Gogh framed art and my Sarah McLachlan poster from my walls.

But — and I know you’ll be surprised by this – it turns out, I did not.

The story goes like many young love affairs do. I married the boyfriend, we moved from small apartment to a feral cat ridden street just outside of Detroit. We got a dog and a KitchenAid mixer. We made love, we made children, and we made a huge, gigantic mess of our lives.

Fifteen tumultuous years after I bode a fond farewell to the four walls of my childhood bedroom, I found myself back home once again.

Well, at least on the weekends.

My husband and I had let our marriage die a slow, insidious death. Only when it was finally cold and lifeless on the floor, did we decide we needed to have an exit plan. Except we had no real plan at all. My husband moved into his father’s house and I stayed with the children during the week, but nearly every weekend he would come and stay with the kids at our house, so that they would have the stability of being in their own home, around the things that made them feel the calmest.

On those weekends where I was displaced from my home, my mother graciously offered to allow me to return to the home of my youth. It was a wonderful, miserable proposition.

On Friday nights, I would load my sad belongings into a lumpy duffle bag and kiss my children, whom I had never been separated from before, goodbye. Then I would sob every second of the 20 minute drive to my mother’s, turning up the sad songs on the radio and screaming out the lyrics to the empty car.

At first, there was something slightly humiliating about returning to my mother’s house, something akin to shame over ending up in the very place I had so casually abandoned a decade and a half before.

But that quickly faded when I realized my mom had HBO. And a fancy cappuccino maker. I remembered all the wonderful things about being at home again, nearly instantly. She was a great cook and her house smelled wonderful and did I mention, there were no kids there? What started out as a dismal, depressing prospect — leaving my home on the heels of a divorce to return to my mother’s house — ended up feeling like a weekly respite at a really, really nice bed and breakfast for free.

I’d stop at the drugstore on my way to pick up a six pack of beer, a copy of Cosmopolitan and a family size bag of peanut M & M’s. I would get into my pajama pants when I arrived and my mother and I would eat take out Chinese food. I’d sleep late in the mornings and eat my mother’s snacks and let her take care of me, in a place that reminded me of comfort, warmth, and of the soft surrounding of childhood.

It healed me, at a time when I needed healing, and it helped me breathe again.

When the arrangement ended a few months later and my husband bought his own house, I missed those times at my mother’s house dearly.

People often say, “You can never go home again.” Well those people clearly never had their mothers serve them a cup of coffee while they sat, as a grown woman, reading the newspaper on a cold, rainy Saturday morning. After my experience of moving back home part-time at the age of 34, I think the adage should really go a little something more like this: “You can never go home again, unless your mom has all the premium channels on cable and makes really great baked goods.”

And then, by all means,go home, again.

But only for the weekend.

Courtesy of Nicole Jankowski

Moving In With Your Parents after a Divorce

Divorce turns your world upside down — and it can often leave you scrambling to get your life in order. Parents with children especially can find themselves in a situation in which they lack financial support, childcare options, and even a place to live. For some adults, moving back home to live with their parents in the wake of a divorce is a workable solution – and one that also can provide emotional support and consistency in a time of turbulence (just be cautious processing everybody’s advice about your divorce).

Although moving in with your parents after a divorce can be a wonderful opportunity to transition to a new life, settle your finances, and get support from your family, it also comes with a unique set of issues.

Tips to Make Moving in with Parents after Divorce a Success

  • Lay out ground rules before moving in. When moving home with your parents, never assume anything. Before you set foot in the door, sit down with your parents and write out rules and obligations. Will you pay rent and split bills? Will you do the grocery shopping? Will your things be relegated to one room or one part of the house? This list of rules will help squelch many disagreements before they happen.
  • Have a frank discussion about child care. Having your family around means having built-in opportunities for child care. However, you and your parents may disagree on how involved other family members should be regarding babysitting. Outline specific activities or times of day (like dinner time, bath time, or bedtime) for Grandma and Grandpa and let them know if your children need to be watched while you are at work. The more you communicate, the better.
  • Realize you are a guest. It can be easy to revert to your teenage years when you move home to your parents’ house. They may even offer to cook, wash your clothes, and pay the bills as you emotionally process your divorce. However, it is important to resist this help after you have been home for a few weeks or months. Pitch in, give your family their own space, and respect the rules of their home.
  • Make time for yourself. Moving back in with your parents is a great way to surround yourself with the love and support of your family. However, it’s important to remain independent during this time and not rely on their support completely. Take time during your stay to focus on your own mental health, keep up with your social life, and retain your independence.
  • Have a timeline for moving out. Even if the arrangement works out well, you and your parents may have different ideas about when you will leave and how long you will need their help and support. While you don’t have to set a specific date, let them know your goals for getting your own place, such as “I will move out once I have a certain amount of money saved,” or “I will move out by the end of the year.”

There’s More to Know About Life after Divorce — We Can Help

Every adult going through a divorce needs a strong divorce attorney on his or her side. The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny can help you. Contact us online or call us at 425-460-0550 for help with your divorce case.

Moving back in with your parents after a divorce? Mother-of-two reveals the challenges and rewards

For some, ‘3G’ – meaning ‘three generations’ – is a harmonious way to live. For others, it’s a nightmare that sees you tantruming like a teenager.

For Jo Pooley, it was a necessity when her marriage fell apart but living with her parents is a delicate yet rewarding situation…

At my age, with two children and a good job, I can hardly believe I’m back living with my parents. But life doesn’t go according to plan. And when I caught my husband of seven years having an affair, my life was turned on its head.

I’d been a tricky teenager, growing up with my parents in Suffolk. But life in the countryside, helping them out with the plant nursery they still run, was full of fond memories of tractors and tree-climbing.

It couldn’t have been more different to the life I made with my husband Tom*, and our kids Isla, now six, and Charlie, one – we lived in a townhouse in vibrant Cheltenham, surrounded by shops and restaurants.

When Charlie was six months old, I caught Tom having an affair. I couldn’t believe the betrayal and filed for divorce, but I had to make a decision – I couldn’t buy another house until we’d sold our marital home. So I could stay in Cheltenham and rent – or move into my parents’ house.

Jo’s mother Jane with grandson Charlie (Image: John Robertson)

Mum and Dad assured me we could stay as long as we liked and, although it felt like stepping back in time, I craved the security of being with them while I faced my divorce.

In August 2014, Isla, Charlie, our labrador Maggie and I moved in. My brothers and their kids lived nearby and it was comforting to be home with my family. It’s been a blessing, but often a challenging one for all involved.

Back in time

Now, I’m living in Mum and Dad’s spare bedroom. I have a big double bed and a little pile of cosmetics, and, just like when I was a child, I know I have to keep it all clean and tidy, up to my Mum’s high standards.

Dad is a traditional man, a creature of habit. He’ll always be in for a cup of tea at 10.45am and 4.45pm. He likes meat and two veg for dinner, and when I’m cooking something like falafels with halloumi, houmous and pitta, Dad can’t help but ask if there’s any meat to go with it. Or he’ll go to the chippie instead.

I find myself getting wound up by little things. Like Dad asking me if I’ll manage going to Tesco on my own, as if I were a teenager again, rather than a mother of two who has run her own household for half her life.

Mum sometimes tells off Isla for being on her iPad, whereas I think it’s harmless in small doses.

I’m sure it works both ways, and that my parents often find themselves biting their tongues, particularly when it comes to my parenting techniques. Isla gets up and down from the table during a meal constantly and I can see my parents wishing she’d sit still.

I find myself telling her off more than I usually do. I know I don’t parent the same way they would and that’s a bone of contention. It’s hard to make the children behave, because they think we’re on holiday.

Their sacrifice

But I am a guest in their house and they’ve given up so much independence and freedom to have us all here. They can’t have any other family to stay at weekends, because the kids and I take up the spare rooms.

I’ve filled their garage with belongings, they creep around so as not to wake my kids. Isla can make such a mess and Charlie cries in the night. Maggie leaves dog hair all over their lovely carpets, try as I might to vacuum up after her. I feel constantly guilty.

Jo’s father Richard with granddaughter Isla (Image: John Robertson)

Inevitably, tensions have arisen, but the biggest one is around Tom. We have stayed amicable for the sake of our kids and the osteopathic clinic we ran together (he still works there, I now work part-time in another clinic), but my parents can’t accept what he did.

Dad is so angry – when Tom comes to pick up the kids he turns on his heel, refusing to acknowledge him. I don’t want it to be stressful, but my parents see me upset and feel protective.

The way I want to handle the divorce and future with Tom definitely causes the most strain, but appreciating my parents have done me such a massive favour has taught me to be a better person.

I put the kettle on just before Dad comes in for his tea. I buy him Liquorice Allsorts, almonds and figs because I know he loves them, and I give Mum lots of free osteopathy treatments.

The downside is that with all our stuff in boxes in the garage it doesn’t feel like home, and I worry about the effect on the children.

Although Isla doesn’t seem to mind. She struggled at first, settling into the local school, but she’s just joined a Brownies group, and has friends over to tea and goes to parties.


I do, eventually, plan to move on. We’ve just sold the house in Cheltenham, but the money won’t be distributed until the divorce is finalised. As a single mum working part-time, I can’t raise a big mortgage, and there’s nothing to rent in the area, so my options are limited.

But here, the kids have space to romp about and they’re forming a relationship with their grandparents they’d never have had from occasional visits.

Charlie cries whenever Dad goes out without him, while Isla insists it’s Grandma who wakes her up in the morning. It’s testament to the welcome my parents have given us that the kids don’t seem at all uprooted.

I feel for Mum and Dad. It’s not just my life that’s changed. I never thought I’d be here this long and nor did they.

I pay towards food and rent, they help with childcare, and Mum does less cooking and cleaning. But although the financial savings benefit us all, for the emotional support I’ll be forever in their debt.

*Name has been changed.

3G: The facts

The cost of living is seeing young people unable to get on to the housing ladder (Image: Getty)

● In the last 10 years the number of three-generational (3G) families living together
has jumped by 56%.

● The soaring cost of living, student debt, record house prices leaving young people unable to get on the housing ladder, and people delaying marriage has seen families choose to live together in a way not seen since Victorian times.

● According to the Office For National Statistics, a record 313,000 homes contain two or more families, making this the fastest growing type of household in Britain.

● Adapting to the change, the National House Building Council suggested last year that homes would soon be designed with two front doors to accommodate different generations and their independence.

I’m writing this from the comfort and luxury of my new twin mattress, which was one of the few upgrades I treated myself to when moving back into my childhood bedroom, which is now a guest room. I like a particular brand of mattress that is expensive, but has proven to be the only thing that doesn’t leave me with a terrible back after a restless night’s sleep.

Somehow, having that fancy mattress that felt just like a smaller version of one in my old apartment is a huge comfort, and makes me feel less like I am what I am, which is a 30-year-old divorcée who is living at home with her parents. It sounds sad to say, because I am this person, but I’m not. It’s part of my sanity-maintenance to tell myself that this was the result of things out of my control. If you had met me a year ago, you never would have believed this would happen to me, and I’m definitely not the type of person to take advantage of her parents, or be lazy about paying her own rent. I’m ashamed to be where I am, and trying to get out of it as quickly as possible.

But first, some background:

By day, I work in administration at a very prestigious university in my beloved Chicago. I grew up in the suburbs here, went to the Northeast for college, came back for grad school and eventually took a job in the city pretty much right after my Master’s, at the school I work at to this day. It was at this job that I met my ex. He was visiting the school to give a presentation to professors on a kind of software that his firm developed for classroom use, and I was tasked with organizing his accommodations. (At the time, I was doing a lot of BS work, such as booking hotels for important speakers and getting yelled at when something was inevitably wrong.)

We fell in love quickly, and it was an absolutely intoxicating relationship. He was brilliant, tall, funny, handsome, wealthy, passionate about his work, and just older enough than me to feel “wise.” I found so much comfort in him, and looked up to him in a way that seems, now, unhealthy. But we were engaged by my 26th birthday, and married by my 27th. Because I earned drastically less than him, it seemed obvious that I would move into his apartment, which was more than large enough for two people, and had a perfect location. It was something I never could have afforded on my own, but he owned it, so I didn’t pay really anything. I took over some household bills to feel more like I was “pulling my weight,” but looking back, that probably didn’t amount to even a third of what I would have had to pay in rent.

As far as our other finances, he had a lot of accounts separate from me, and when it came to his properties and investments (including the apartment I lived in), my name wasn’t on anything. I had my piddly savings account, and the rest of my money I just sort of spent however I wanted, because I didn’t worry about ever having to pay for my own life. I looked at most of my money, outside of my few bills and a tiny bit of savings, as being “to live with,” so we went on lots of trips, ate great food, bought beautiful clothes, and I swiped, swiped, swiped my card without worrying about it.

As I neared 30, though, I started to feel a kind of prickle on the back of my net about not having any kind of nest egg for myself. I said to my ex, at one point, that if he died I would be totally fucked, and that that was really scary. He told me that he would start writing me into things, and would set up an account for me, but that didn’t materialize. It was one of those things that I could tell stressed him out, so I didn’t bring it up. But as other elements of our relationship started to deteriorate — fights over everything from “do we want kids” to “you like to watch dumb TV shows that give me a headache” — I worried that I might never see that money.

I hadn’t signed a prenup (it hadn’t even dawned on 26-year-old me), so I did something that I never thought I would have done: I consulted a lawyer. I asked about my rights, and what I should expect in terms of financial and legal setup so that, at the very least, assets like the apartment would transfer to me. When I told the lawyer the full extent of our financial situation, and how much more like a child I was in the relationship than an equal partner, he balked. He couldn’t believe how I was letting myself live, how unprotected I was, and how much control my husband had over our every decision.

The conversation empowered me to go talk to my ex, equal to equal, and try to change some things.

Suffice it to say, the conversation went horribly, and by the end of that night he was sleeping in a hotel somewhere I didn’t know, and I was sobbing while cradling a bottle of wine on our living room couch. He accused me of tons of things, but the overall jist was that I was a child who was perfectly happy to live off his dollar when things were going well, but that now that I sensed things might not work out, I was looking for the cash grab. This wasn’t true (at least in part because the reason things were terrible was largely because of these money imbalances), but it made me feel like shit nonetheless. I had lived off him for a long time, whether or not it was outright. And even though I did pay for some things, I realized that having that little bit of money that I contributed made me feel less dependent, like I wasn’t one of “those” housewives who just mooched, instead of having her own work and life.

(I know that this is a stupid and sexist point of view, but it’s one of the delusions I used to make myself feel less terrible about our otherwise-not-great setup.)

So, to make a very long and sad story short, we divorced. In order to make things go speedily and painlessly, he offered me a settlement in the form of a lump sum. I took it, and in the only truly positive financial decision I’ve ever made for myself, I used it to pay off the balance on my student loans. That meant that, aside from the chump change I had in my savings account, I was pretty much broke — and back to living with my sub-$50k salary, which meant I had some serious preparation to do if I wanted to live on my own. (I feel too old and chewed up to have roommates, honestly.)

So I moved in with my parents about 10 months ago, and here we are today. I am going to be 31 soon, which is going to be a bleak birthday in the context of all that’s happened in the past few years. But at least I’m free, building my financial future on my own terms, and at least I got out of that relationship relatively painlessly. Yes, I’m divorced, which is not something you want to put on a dating profile. But I also didn’t bring children into that mix, and I didn’t do anything that is truly irreversible. My ex and I are civil to one another, and I don’t feel like I have a ghost somewhere in Chicago who I could run into any minute and be destroyed by. I got out alright, and I know that.

So as I curl up in my childhood, twin-sized bed, in a room still full of guest soaps and doilies because my parents don’t expect me to stay long enough to transition it away from “guest room,” and I don’t either, I have a word of advice: Protect yourself. Protect yourself, because even in a situation where someone isn’t mean or abusive or out to get you, they will still prioritize their interests over your own. They will still take care of themselves first. That’s just human nature, and you can’t find yourself in a situation where you are utterly dependent on the whims of another person, and totally without options. Sometimes totally banal situations can result in you getting fucked, and “friendly separations” can result in you back at your parents’ house.

If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will. Even if all goes well, something could happen to your partner, and you’d be in the same situation. So always make sure you’ve got your own back, and are planning for your own future, because you could end up like me if you don’t. And I’m not even the worst of it, by far.

Image via Unsplash

Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents

Co-parenting amicably after a split is rarely easy, but by making joint custody work you can give your children the stability, security, and close relationships with both parents that they need.

Unless your family has faced serious issues such as domestic violence or substance abuse, co-parenting—having both parents play an active role in their children’s daily lives—is the best way to ensure that all your kids’ needs are met and enable them to retain close relationships with both parents. Research suggests that the quality of the relationship between co-parents can also have a strong influence on the mental and emotional well-being of children, and the incidence of anxiety and depression. Of course, putting aside relationship issues, especially after an acrimonious split, to co-parent agreeably is sometimes easier said than done.

Joint custody arrangements can be exhausting, infuriating, and fraught with stress, especially if you have a contentious relationship with your ex-partner. You may feel concerned about your ex’s parenting abilities, stressed out about child support or other financial issues, feel worn down by conflict, or think you’ll never be able to overcome all the resentments in your relationship. Making shared decisions, interacting with each another at drop-offs, or just speaking to a person you’d rather forget all about can seem like impossible tasks. For the sake of your kids’ well-being, though, it is possible for you to overcome co-parenting challenges and develop a cordial working relationship with your ex. With these tips, you can remain calm, stay consistent, and resolve conflicts to make joint custody work and enable your kids to thrive.

Making co-parenting work

The key to successful co-parenting is to separate the personal relationship with your ex from the co-parenting relationship. It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one—one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; acting in your kids’ best interest is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.

Benefits for your children

Through your co-parenting partnership, your kids should recognize that they are more important than the conflict that ended your marriage—and understand that your love for them will prevail despite changing circumstances. Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship:

  • Feel secure. When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations, and have better self-esteem.
  • Benefit from consistency. Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
  • Better understand problem solving. Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves.
  • Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future to build and maintain stronger relationships.
  • Are mentally and emotionally healthier. Children exposed to conflict between co-parents are more likely to develop issues such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.

Co-parenting tip 1: Set hurt and anger aside

Successful co-parenting means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it’s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.

Separating feelings from behavior

It’s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don’t have to dictate your behavior. Instead, let what’s best for your kids—you working cooperatively with the other parent—motivate your actions.

Get your feelings out somewhere else. Never vent to your child. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest. Exercise can also provide a healthy outlet for letting off steam.

Stay kid-focused. If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child’s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may help you calm down.

Don’t put your children in the middle

You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up, but what you can do is compartmentalize those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child’s. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.

Never use kids as messengers. When you use your children to convey messages to your co-parent, it puts them in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex directly.

Keep your issues to yourself. Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with their other parent that is free of your influence.

Tip 2: Improve communication with your co-parent

Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may seem absolutely impossible. It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication with your ex as having the highest purpose: your child’s well-being. Before having contact with your ex, ask yourself how your actions will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.

Remember that it isn’t always necessary to meet your ex in person—speaking over the phone or exchanging texts or emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is to establish conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you.

Co-parenting communication methods

However you choose to have contact, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication:

Set a business-like tone. Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your “business” is your children’s well-being. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague—with cordiality, respect, and neutrality. Relax and talk slowly.

Make requests. Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as a request. Requests can begin with, “Would you be willing to…?” or “Can we try…?”

Listen. Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you end up disagreeing with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to your ex that you’ve understood their point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won’t lose anything by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions.

Show restraint. Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood—if not longer. You can train yourself to not overreact to your ex, and over time you can become numb to the buttons they try to push.

Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Though it may be extremely difficult in the early stages, frequent communication with your ex will convey the message to your children that you and your co-parent are a united front.

Keep conversations kid-focused. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner digress into a conversation about your needs or their needs; it should always be about your child’s needs only.

Quickly relieve stress in the moment. It may seem impossible to stay calm when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse who’s hurt you in the past or has a real knack for pushing your buttons. But by practicing quick stress relief techniques, you can learn to stay in control when the pressure builds.

Improving the relationship with your ex

If you’re truly ready to rebuild trust after a break up, be sincere about your efforts. Remember your children’s best interests as you move forward to improve your relationship.

  • Ask your ex’s opinion. This simple technique can jump-start positive communications between you. Take an issue that you don’t feel strongly about, and ask for your ex’s input, showing that you value their opinion.
  • Apologize. When you’re sorry about something, apologize sincerely—even if the incident happened a long time ago. Apologizing can be a very powerful step in moving your relationship past that of adversaries.
  • Chill out. If a special outing with your ex is going to cut into your time with your child by an hour, graciously let it be. Remember that it’s all about what is best for your child. Plus, when you show flexibility, your ex is more likely to be flexible with you.

Tip 3: Co-parent as a team

Parenting is full of decisions you’ll have to make with your ex, whether you like each other or not. Cooperating and communicating without blow-ups or bickering makes decision-making far easier on everybody. If you shoot for consistency, geniality, and teamwork with your co-parent, the details of child-rearing decisions tend to fall into place.

Aim for co-parenting consistency

It’s healthy for children to be exposed to different perspectives and learn to be flexible, but they also need to know they’re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Aiming for consistency between your home and your ex’s avoids confusion for your children.

Rules. Rules don’t have to be exactly the same between two households, but if you and your ex-spouse establish generally consistent guidelines, your kids won’t have to bounce back and forth between two radically different disciplinary environments. Important lifestyle rules like homework issues, curfews, and off-limit activities should be followed in both households.

Discipline. Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn’t happen under your roof. So, if your kids have lost TV privileges while at your ex’s house, follow through with the restriction. The same can be done for rewarding good behavior.

Schedule. Where you can, aim for some consistency in your children’s schedules. Making meals, homework, and bedtimes similar can go a long way toward your child’s adjustment to having two homes.

Making important decisions as co-parents

Major decisions need to be made by both you and your ex. Being open, honest, and straightforward about important issues is crucial to both your relationship with your ex and your children’s well-being.

Medical needs. Whether you decide to designate one parent to communicate primarily with health care professionals or attend medical appointments together, keep one another in the loop.

Education. Be sure to let the school know about changes in your child’s living situation. Speak with your ex ahead of time about class schedules, extra-curricular activities, and parent-teacher conferences, and be polite to each other at school or sports events.

Financial issues. The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be gracious if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide.

Resolving co-parenting disagreements

As you co-parent, you and your ex are bound to disagree over certain issues. Keep the following in mind as you try to reach a consensus.

Respect can go a long way. Simple manners should be the foundation for co-parenting. Being considerate and respectful includes letting your ex know about school events, being flexible about your schedule when possible, and taking their opinion seriously.

Keep talking. If you disagree about something important, you will need to continue communicating. Never discuss your differences of opinions with or in front of your child. If you still can’t agree, you may need to talk to a third party, like a therapist or mediator.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you disagree about important issues like a medical surgery or choice of school for your child, by all means, keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.

Compromise. Yes, you will need to come around to your ex spouse’s point of view as often as he or she comes around to yours. It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you both to “win” and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.

Tip 4: Make transitions and visitation easier

The actual move from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or just certain weekends, can be a very hard time for children. Every reunion with one parent is also a separation with the other, each “hello” also a “goodbye.” While transitions are unavoidable, there are many things you can do to help make them easier on your children.

When your child leaves

As kids prepare to leave your house for your ex’s, try to stay positive and deliver them on time.

Help children anticipate change. Remind kids they’ll be leaving for the other parent’s house a day or two before the visit.

Pack in advance. Depending on their age, help children pack their bags well before they leave so that they don’t forget anything they’ll miss. Encourage packing familiar reminders like a special stuffed toy or photograph.

Always drop off—never pick up the child. It’s a good idea to avoid “taking” your child from the other parent so that you don’t risk interrupting or curtailing a special moment. Drop off your child at the other parent’s house instead.

When your child returns

The beginning of your child’s return to your home can be awkward or even rocky. To help your child adjust:

Keep things low-key. When children first enter your home, try to have some down time together—read a book or do some other quiet activity.

Double up. To make packing simpler and make kids feel more comfortable when they are at the other parent’s house, have kids keep certain basics—toothbrush, hairbrush, pajamas—at both houses.

Allow your child space. Children often need a little time to adjust to the transition. If they seem to need some space, do something else nearby. In time, things will get back to normal.

Establish a special routine. Play a game or serve the same special meal each time your child returns. Kids thrive on routine—if they know exactly what to expect when they return to you it can help the transition.

Dealing with visitation refusal

It’s common that kids in joint custody sometimes refuse to leave one parent to stay with the other.

  • Find the cause. The problem may be easy to resolve, like paying more attention to your child, making a change in discipline style, or having more toys or other entertainment. Or it may be that an emotional reason is at hand, such as conflict or misunderstanding. Talk to your child about their refusal.
  • Go with the flow. Whether you have detected the reason for the refusal or not, try to give your child the space and time that they obviously need. It may have nothing to do with you at all. And take heart: most cases of visitation refusal are temporary.
  • Talk to your ex. A heart-to-heart with your ex about the refusal may be challenging and emotional, but can help you figure out what the problem is. Try to remain sensitive and understanding to your ex as you discuss this touchy subject.

The first time Michelle Summerfield landed herself deep in debt, her parents helped bail her out. This time, the self-described “shopaholic” is on the long tough road to debt repayment alone.

“Having someone help you with your finances actually doesn’t help you at all,” said the 39-year-old account manager.

Her debt story, one of divorce and careless spending, began in 2006 when she and her husband bought a 1,200 square-foot starter house north of Toronto for nearly $280,000. Ms. Summerfield, who earned between $60,000 and $70,000 while married, acquired a line of credit in her name.

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She started dipping into her credit line to decorate their new home with furniture, curtains and some major appliances. “You want to make your house look nice,” she said.

When the couple divorced in 2010, Ms. Summerfield owed more than $33,000 on her line of credit and credit card. Neither partner could afford their house alone, so they sold it. Their profit covered the real estate and lawyer fees, she said.

Unable to afford to live on her own, Ms. Summerfield moved in with her parents where she pays $150 monthly rent and covers costs like her cell phone and internet.

“The financial drain of divorce is huge,” said Laurie Campbell, the chief executive officer of Credit Canada Debt Solutions in Toronto. Many new divorcees mistakenly believe they can maintain their home and lifestyle, but they’re often forced to downsize, she added.

More than 40 per cent of young adults between 20 and 29 live with their parents, according to Statistic Canada’s 2011 census. Some have never left home and others are so-called boomerang kids. Two per cent of these young adults are either divorced, separated, widowed or still married, but living without their spouse.

It’s okay to move back home temporarily, said Ms. Campbell, so long as there is a plan to save a specific amount of money for moving out within a reasonable timeframe.

After her divorce, Ms. Summerfield’s priority was paying off her debt. She buckled and by the summer of 2011, her line of credit debt was down to just over $24,000. She also owed some money on her credit card and nearly $40,000 for a new car she had bought to replace her old unreliable lemon.

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Her parents proposed an agreement. They would pay off her line of credit and she would make monthly payments to them at only 1 per cent interest, fall less than the 4.75 to 7.75 per cent her line of credit demanded.

By April 2013, she had whittled her debt down to around $8,900. Her dad forgave the outstanding amount, she said, as long as she promised to stop overspending.

It’s admirable when parents want to provide monetary help, says Credit Canada’s Ms. Campbell. But parental help can prevent the child from understanding the consequences of their financial mistakes.

She often sees clients who loan money to their kids, money that is never repaid. Some parents will even take out a loan to help, she said, and are then left with that financial burden late in life, a time when they should be enjoying their own retirement.

If parents are determined to step in and help an adult child financially, they need to agree on a repayment strategy or, if the money is a gift, a financial plan that includes future savings, she said.

Unfortunately, Ms. Summerfield did not use her leg up as an opportunity to turn a new leaf. It wasn’t long before she started shopping again, racking up more debt .

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Dissatisfied with her life, she ventured on a wardrobe redesign, splurged on cashmere sweaters, designer dresses and a $600 purse.

Kathryn Mandelcorn, a Vancouver-based certified money coach with Money Coaches Canada, said it’s common for people to fill a void in their lives with purchases. To avoid impulse shopping, she suggests waiting two days before buying anything.

People who have repaid their debt should instead start saving money for things they value, like a secure retirement or a future trip, Ms. Mandelcorn added.

Ms. Summerfield said she was in the wrong emotional state during her shopping spree year and is now working on strengthening her willpower and questioning why she shops.

She is trying not to buy clothes, shoes, electronics and other goods for one year. She’s cut the cord on her home phone and cable, and cancelled a trip to the U.K. She does allow herself the occasional coffee or dinner out.

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In the roughly four months since she started, Ms. Summerfield has slipped up a few times, buying some books, accounting software and a pair of workout pants.

But, she’s been aggressively paying down her consumer debt and car loan, while continuing to max out her company’s registered retirement savings plan and saving for future goals. She writes about taming her financial alter-ego, who she calls Spenderella, at Budget Bloggess.

Her car loan won’t be repaid until June 2016, but she estimates she’ll pay off her consumer debt by the new year. She’s set an ambitious goal to reach a net worth of $100,000 by then, which she says is possible given her low expenses, large salary and prior savings.

This time, she’s set on fixing her financial mistakes without her parents’ help.

“I get myself into the debt,” said Ms. Summerfield. “I should get myself out of it.”

To share your own debt-reduction story, .

No matter how you spin it, getting divorced is tough — especially if you have kids. Even if the decision to part ways is clearly the best (or only) one, the resulting separation can be traumatizing for children. Research shows that the best way to avoid risking the well-being of kids going through this difficult process, is to keep it as low-conflict and amicable as possible.

How do you do that? For some divorcing or divorced parents, the answer is ‘nesting’ (also called ‘birdnesting’). This means to keep the family residence intact as a home where both parents rotate living with their children, while otherwise dwelling in separate residences.

One apartment in rotation, and the family home for all stays with kids

Sherri Sharma, partner at Aronson, Mayefsky & Sloan, LLP, a matrimonial law firm in NYC typically sees divorcing parents who take a nesting approach by keeping the main house and then sharing a separate apartment, which they individually occupy when not “at home” with the children.

“The way I’ve seen nesting done is not people having three homes, as most people, even quite wealthy clients, don’t find that feasible,” Sharma tells NBC News BETTER. “Usually the parents have a studio apartment they share and rotate, and then keep the marital home where the children stay put.”

The motivating concept behind nesting, as Sharma puts it, is “there’s little disruption for the kids. They’re not being affected by the fact that their parents are separating.”

Short-term nesting is the healthiest way to do it

Sharma has seen nesting work out well for clients who are parting amicably, but only if it’s done in the short-term.

“I’ve never seen ‘nesting’ go on forever,” says Sharma. “A few months is okay but for longer periods (beyond six months), I think the uncertainty of not knowing what it will really be like to have separate homes can be confusing or anxiety- for children.”

Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist and the author of “The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child” concurs with Sharma on a short-term nesting plan, and actually finds this method to be beneficial to children. She caps it at three months.

‘The shock of the painful news to the children is softened by a brief transitional period in which the kids’ environmental surroundings remain the same and the only change is the presence of one parent or the other, versus both at the same time,” says Walfish. “Any longer than a period of three months of nesting risks giving your children an inaccurate message that are working on reconciliation. All children of divorce fantasize and wish for their parents to work things out and return to being a complete family unit.”

Some of the biggest perks are practical

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Celeste Viciere, a licensed mental health clinician finds that nesting can benefit children both socially, and when it comes to practical everyday stuff.

“Having the children live in the same house that is familiar to them can be beneficial because it’s easier to stay in the same school and keep the same friend group. Often when kids have to bounce between different households, it tends to affect their social lives due to the location,” says Viciere. “Another upside to nesting is that kids don’t have to lug their belongings back and forth between two places. It allows the kids to come to terms with the divorce without being separated from the environment they have always known.”

But Viciere, too, sees the downsides of nesting.

“ may feel confusing to a child,” she says, echoing Walfish’s concerns. “Children may struggle with having amazing family memories in the house but feel unable to share them together anymore. It could also lead to a false sense of reality where they become hopeful that their parents could get back together.”

To make it work, parents need to be on the best terms

Shelley A. Senterfitt, a family lawyer-turned-therapist specializing in family law issues and relationships, does not recommend nesting as she finds that it can create opportunity for the very kind of conflict divorcing parents are trying to avoid.

Senterfitt offers the following hypothetical conflict that could arise: “Imagine if it’s mom’s week with the kids in the marital residence. She decides to make a big pot of chili and uses the last of the chili powder. She doesn’t go to the store to replace the empty spice container. When dad moves back into the marital residence for his week with the kids, he decides to make a dish that calls for chili powder. When he expresses frustration that there is no more chili powder, the kids casually mention that mom made a big pot of chili the previous week. Dad then calls up mom and tells her how self-centered she is for having used up the last of the chili powder and not replacing it.”

Senterfitt notes that this is “a pretty benign example,” but adds, “Imagine if the issue were even more charged? What if dad’s girlfriend spent time at the house and left her bra there? How is mom likely to respond when she finds the unmentionables of her ex’s new squeeze? Sharing a residence creates too many opportunities for parents to trigger one another which will not benefit the children.”

All that said, Senterfitt still does see nesting sometimes pan out successfully for the very short-term.

“The only instances I am aware of in which parents have made nesting work is when it is done on a very time-limited basis (e.g. for the remainder of a child’s senior year in high school) and when the parents have had a very amicable divorce (e.g. they both wanted to end the marriage and are committed to putting the children’s interests ahead of their own),” Senterfitt says. “ this describes a very small portion of divorcing couples.”

Nesting not an option? You can still do right by your kids in divorce

Even if you do want to give nesting a try, it’s not always a feasible plan. Money is key (along with figuring out who will maintain the costs of the familial home as well as that additional rotating apartment), as is a supremely calm and committed attitude which calls to mind the “conscious uncoupling” method made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin in their apparently gracious divorce and co-parenting system.

Nesting or not, consider what you should do to put your children’s well-being and mental health first if divorcing.

“Regardless of how you choose to divorce, being mindful of the potential effects to your kids is crucial,” says Viciere. “Some parents struggle with having difficult but realistic conversations with their kids in an effort to ‘protect’ them. Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t truly protecting your children by avoiding having these conversations. Rather, it hurts them when you aren’t being honest about what’s taking place. Kids tend to already have an idea of what’s going on and are quite perceptive of their environments. It’s expected that kids will have a hard time with divorce, but if you can be upfront with them about what’s happening, and allow them to ask questions and have conversations around how they feel about what’s taking place, it will help in navigating them through the situation.”

Dr. Walfish adds the following tips for the newly divorced or divorcing parents:

  • “Keep structure and routine the same in both homes. Maintain the same bedtime, mealtimes, wakeup time, homework schedule and extracurricular activities. The more stable your child’s life and routine, the less separation anxiety they will suffer.
  • Keep rules, expectations, and consequences the same in both homes. When parents are able to do this effectively we see a reduction of angry behavior and emotional problems in teens.
  • Keep their school the same. don’t also move and change your child’s home and school at the same time . To lose the continuity of the same friends, teachers, campus and overall school environment could be even more traumatic for your child who must adjust to the divorce shakeup.
  • Nurture, nourish, and facilitate ongoing relationships for your teen with extended family members. When parents divorce, sometimes kids lose their cousins, aunts and uncles on one or both sides of the family. The more people who love and care about your kids the less painful the divorce will be. Allow your child to be loved by many people.
  • Never fight or argue or create a deafening hostile silence with your ex in front of the kids. This is the number one complaint of children of divorced patients of mine.”


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Creating a Home Alone, After Divorce

Source: LanaK/

After my husband moved out, I didn’t want to stay in our four-bedroom townhouse in Hoboken, New Jersey, but I couldn’t seem to move. I felt trapped, stuck in mud, unable to decide what neighborhood or apartment “fit” the newly single me.

This ambivalence and discomfort is pretty typical in divorce, whether you have to find a new place or make your old home feel like yours, alone. Our marriages are based on our space. Marriage shoots roots through the floors, wraps tendrils around pillars, proclaims itself on the doorposts and on the gates. We use the term “home” interchangeably with “marriage,” as in, “How are things at home?” Or, “All’s good on the home front.” Moving out, or even merely moving your ex’s items out, is a physical manifestation of the fact that you are moving on.

When I finally relocated two years later, I was reduced to a mass of indecision, laced with longing, topped with regret—all while shopping in Home Depot. The scale of it. The choices. My dog, with me for moral support, flopped down on the concrete floor in aisle 21, panting. I sank down next to him, staring up at aisle upon aisle of pipe fittings and shower doors. The years of my marriage stared back at me under the glare of the fluorescent lights: the shelves we bought together for our first apartment in the city, the vetting of vanities and countertops for a house we built in the country, mirrors for the townhouse, when we moved back to the metro area.

This is it, I realized, me, myself and my dog. My son, too of course, but no adult partner creating a homey home life with me.

While it can seem sad and overwhelming to create a home alone, it’s also a chance to choose new décor, a new abode or even a new city that better supports and reflects you. “We often lose ourselves in our relationships. The process of creating our nests again can bring us back to ourselves—our values, our dreams, our journey, where we’re going and who we want to be,” says Karen Lehrman Bloch, author of The Inspired Home: Interiors of Deep Beauty. “How you create your individual nest can help you figure out who you are again and who you want to pair with again. This is an opportunity, through the choices you make, to create something that will touch you and help you get back to yourself.”

Here are four ways feel more at home in your space.

1. Purge the Past, With Moderation

Reclaiming your home as your own involves purging some things—wedding albums, a couch you always hated, probably the bed you’ve slept in together for twenty years. Our objects carry associations with them that we feel.

“People just think function, not the emotional baggage of their furniture. They think, ‘I need a coffee table,’ and don’t think, ‘This is the coffee table we bought on our honeymoon to Thailand,” says Jodi Topitz, a designer-turned interior stylist whose company, We2Me, is dedicated to helping divorced people redecorate or move.

Topitz has a two-minute video on her site about “how to get your mojo back through color and design” that makes you want to purge merely to take an uplifting shopping spree. In one scene, she tells a client, “You need to divorce the coffee table! We need to celebrate with a new piece of furniture that celebrates who you are and fits in your new space!”

You also want to keep some things that speak to you and reinforce the parts of your past you want to actively remember. If you have to downsize, you might reuse old pieces in a new way, turn couch cushions into an ottoman, take four dining chairs rather than six, turn an end table into a coffee maker stand.

2. Do It Fast

Even if it’s a temporary rental, you can’t live with unpacked boxes for two years and expect to feel comfortable and safe. Spend the time and money to quickly get yourself set up and functional, ideally within a couple weeks. Hire painters to cover your walls in a shade you love. Buy the microwave and bath towels that will ease your daily life. “Unbury yourself from the rubble of being uprooted and feeling like you failed in the marriage. You want to take hold of something concrete,” said Topitz.

A home fulfills many needs, notes Clare Cooper Marcus in her moving meditation on place, House As a Mirror of Self. It’s “a place of self-expression, a vessel of memories, a refuge from the outside world, a cocoon where we can feel nurtured and let down our guard.” The more quickly you settle in, the faster your home can assume its supportive role.

Setting up a comfortable home also helps re-instill a sense of security and stability for children, whose routines and even school may have changed due to divorce. Give them ownership of some part of their house. Marcus advises giving children a sense of control over their bedrooms. Let them choose furniture, paint colors or drapes, hang up photos or pictures, and take responsibility for keeping it clean.

3. Bring in Nature

Even if you live in a city, you can open your windows, buy houseplants, and get a dog—or find someone else’s to pet—three things that can instantly nurture your spirit. Contact with nature and animals improves mood, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and even raises serotonin levels, says Linda Nebbe, a retired professor from University of Northern Iowa, author of Nature as a Guide, and a wildlife rehabilitation volunteer and therapist. Even tending to a small garden can make your house feel like a haven. “The whole caring, compassion, nurturing animals and plants—for someone who has gone through divorce, it can be life-changing.”

4. Connect With the Home Outside Your House

If you have to move, think about your home as extending beyond the walls of your house. “When you lose a home, it’s not only your house, it’s also your dry-cleaners, your neighbors, your coffee shop, your memories of your kids walking to kindergarten down the street,” says Topitz. Reclaiming a sense of permanency and home means connecting with the space and residents outside your front door. Join a community garden or gym, volunteer at the library, the food bank or your child’s school.

Then, if you have to go to Home Depot, you can invite someone from your new community to go with you.

For more ideas about resilience in divorce, check out my website: