Managing a divorce is no fun and it can be especially hard when you have to try and figure out how to explain it to your young child. Many parents make the mistake of assuming that toddlers won't notice or be able to understand that the family dynamic is changing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Toddlers are perceptive little people. A toddler will certainly pick up on the stress in the household, even if you and your spouse are doing your best to pretend everything is fine. While is fine to shield your child from most of the details, it is best to eventually explain the situation in honest and simple terms.
Make sure you have a plan before you explain anything to your child. That way, you will have something concrete to say.
Mommy and Daddy love you very much but we have decided not to be married anymore. That means Daddy will move into a new house and Mommy will live in our house.
Remember that your child doesn't have a concept of time. Explaining a detailed custody schedule to him isn't helpful. That being said, a visual calendar with days marked, "Mommy's House" and "Daddy's House" can be helpful. You might even use two different colors to help your child understand.
Validate your child's feelings. It is perfectly normal for children to react with separation anxiety or clinginess. Keep assuring your child that he will be loved and cared for just like always.
I see that you feel sad because Daddy had to go home and I know that it feels different now that he has his own house. But I am so glad to see you and I can't wait to read you some books. Would you like to pick out one right now?
Don't talk about your spouse in front of your child. There is a time and place for venting about your marriage and it is not when your child is around.
Do not try to be the "fun parent" because of guilty feelings. This is not the time to go for a shopping spree at the toy store. Keep routines consistent and assure your child that things will stay much the same.
When you are at Daddy's house, he will read to you before bed, just like we do here. When you get up, he will make your breakfast, just like always.
Make sure to take care of yourself. Go out with friends, find a therapist to talk to, have quiet time - whatever you need to do to focus on self-care. You will be a better parent for it.
Divorces happen. Some are trickier than others. Remember to be calm, loving, and consistent with your child. Validate his feelings and give them a name. You will be happy that you put your child first.
Let Them Fly!