Going through a divorce will affect everyone in your family, especially young children. The impact on children is both emotional and financial. After a divorce, it’s normal for both parents to downsize their life and make decisions to make do with less. The following financial decisions are often necessary, yet they could significantly impact your children:
1. Moving to a cheaper house or apartment
After a divorce, your income will take a dive, and you’ll need to downgrade your living arrangements. Without the luxury of a combined income, you may not be able to uphold your child’s familiar standard of living. To a child, downsizing their lifestyle can be extremely upsetting, and not for the same reasons an adult might be upset. For adults, it’s usually about status and image. For kids, it’s about familiarity and routine.
Unlike adults, young children sometimes don’t adapt quickly to changes in their routine. This is especially true of kids on the autism spectrum. For kids on the spectrum, change creates anxiety and stress. Even kids who aren’t on the spectrum often suffer when their routine is drastically changed.
Moving disrupts a child’s routine
Moving disrupts a child’s routine by taking them away from friends, extended family members, and sometimes their school. That’s why primary caregivers can’t just pack up and move far away when they’ve got an existing custody arrangement. However, in 1996, in Gordon v. Goertz, Canada’s Supreme Court decided the primary caregiver can move provided they’ve got a good reason, and are willing to accommodate the access parent. Finding an affordable place to live after a divorce might be reason enough. Still, you can’t escape the disruption in routine.
For example, say your child grew up in a 6-bedroom, 5,000 square-foot home with a three-car garage, a large laundry room, upgraded kitchen appliances, and an entertainment room. Moving into a two-bedroom apartment will be a shock to their system because it will force them to reorient their entire life.
For instance, they’ll have to develop a new routine for doing laundry in a community area and navigate the complexities of waiting for machines and dealing with other people. It’s a good learning experience, but it’s also a source of stress.
Pay attention to what kind of change affects your kids the most. When you look for a new place to live, accommodate your child’s needs as much as possible. For example, if your child needs their own room to feel secure, find a place that will give them their own space with a door. If your child has a fear of heights, look for a bottom floor apartment. If your child feels better with a pet, find a pet-friendly apartment or look into getting a service animal if your child qualifies.
2. Changing jobs
Changing jobs isn’t just about getting a bigger paycheck. Sometimes changing jobs is a logistics decision. For instance, if you move fifteen miles further from your job, you might need to change jobs to reduce your commute. Do you really want to wake up at 3am to beat the traffic to a job you don’t start until 7am? Probably not.
A new job might come with a smaller paycheck, and that means less cash for your child’s extracurricular hobbies like dance, karate, ballet, soccer, etc.
If your new job is in retail, expect to work some or all holidays. Parents who work holidays is already a source of stress for children. Hopefully, the holidays are far enough away that your child will have time to adjust to their new life before having to worry about where you’ll be for Christmas.
3. Taking on multiple jobs
Like changing jobs, taking on two or three jobs to make ends meet will impact your kids. If you work multiple jobs in the same day, your kids won’t see you as often. You’ll have to hand them off to a babysitter or daycare center, and you’ll miss out on bonding time.
When they’re older, they’ll understand you did it to give them a good life.
4. Spending less on groceries
If you need to slash your food budget in half or more, your kids are going to notice. For instance, if your kids are used to three-course meals, they’re going to be upset when spaghetti is on the menu four nights a week.
Use the opportunity to teach your kids
No matter your financial situation, use the opportunity to teach your kids about money. Teach them to save, invest, and make wise financial decisions. They’ll thank you for it later.