Divorce Dilemmas

Adapting to Adjustments

Q. Since my separation, I've had to go back to work full-time and put my 3-year-old son into daycare. I thought he'd adjust, but after two months he still hates it. What can I do?

A. Switching to a new routine can be tough for kids and parents, and when it's precipitated by a life-altering event, it's often hard to untangle the source of all that stress. So before you make the assumption that his daycare problems have to do with your separation, take his complaints at face value and ask him directly what he doesn't like; if necessary, talk to other parents at the center, and drop by unexpectedly to observe with your own eyes. "It might just be a bad fit, or your child may need help connecting with the other kids," says Isolina Ricci, PhD, author of Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two. If you feel good about his daycare situation, be sure to communicate your enthusiasm -- he might be picking up on your guilt or ambivalent feelings about leaving him.

Often, though, the problem is garden-variety separation anxiety, and the best remedy is to help your son feel connected to you, even when you're apart. "Take the mystery out of your work life by taking him to your office," advises Dr. Ricci. Get him involved by asking his opinion of something in the office. The idea, says Dr. Ricci, "is to help make him feel a part of your world even when you're apart."

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