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How to Help Your Toddler With Custody Transitions

March 26, 2012

The instability and uncertainty of a divorce can hamper a toddler’s need for routine.  When parents separate, new rituals and routines need to be created to foster a child’s sense of security and family.

Anyone who has had children will remember the terrible twos: the domineering behavior, inflexibility, stubbornness, extreme emotions, indecision, and the need for things to be done just in a certain way.  Characteristic behavior of toddlers is well described by the authors of the classic child development study Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gessel Institute of Human Development.  A child at two and a half years old gives orders and wants exactly what they want when they want it.  If a toddler decides “Mommy do it” they will not accept Daddy as a substitute. If they decide “me do it” then no-one is allowed to help them no matter how difficult the task.  In Child Behavior the authors describe this phase as one of “disequilibrium” where toddlers find it very difficult to adapt to change, and crave structured domestic routines. These rituals make toddlers feel safe and secure. The rigid sequences of events and rituals can be as elaborate and impenetrable as a Japanese tea ceremony.

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It is important in the context of divorce that a very young child’s inclination toward ritual and routine should not automatically be misinterpreted as a preference for one parent over another.  In fact, divorce is an opportunity for both parents to help the toddler to create new rituals and routines to ease transitions and give the toddler a sense of comfort and stability.

Crankiness, irritability, defiance, signs of regression, clinginess toward one parent, and physical resistance to the other parent are common patterns displayed by toddlers when parents separate.  In their book, In The Name of The Child, Janet Johnston and Vivienne Roseby describe how parents can develop collaborative strategies to ease transitions between parent’s households using rituals and routines.  (read more)

For more information on child custody please call Law Offices of Warren R. Shiell – Certified Family Law Specialist at (310)247-9913 or visit our website LA Family Law or visit our FAQs on Child Custody

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