After you and your former spouse separate, your living place can feel like it is missing something or is less of a home. Here are three ways you can build a strong sense of home, even if the place itself is different than before.
1. Consult with your children. What have they always wanted to have in the house? How would they like to change things? Brainstorm things that you can work together to change or create.
Six months after their mother moved out, Sam felt he and his kids were still living with a ghost in the house. To help restore a feeling of completeness, he sat down with his son and daughter and made a list of what made a house a home for them. The two children had always wanted a sand box in the back yard. Sam took them to the hardware store to get wood, nails, a plastic tarp and sand. Together they put together a new play area right outside the backdoor.
2. Set up family time to take care of the house together.
a. Tess’ husband used to take care of all the yard work. When he moved out, she instituted a weekly yard clean up with her children. Tess made cookies or baked banana bread to be eaten after the work was done, and then everyone worked together to clean the yard. Although the kids initially baulked at the new work, soon it became a family time. The kids learned to trade off jobs, work together and some of the events of the week became fodder for family jokes.
b. Whenever the kids visited, David’s place became a mess with kids toys, backpacks, and clothes strewn about. He started a clean-up time every evening for 10 minutes. His sons would pick out 3 favorite songs which David put on the stereo. While the songs played, the boys raced around the living room cleaning up as much as they could until the songs were over. It taught them that many hands make light work.
3. Redecorate or add something new to the house.
a. After her husband moved out, Janice took her daughters to the local nursery. Each picked out three plants—one for her own room, one for common areas of the house and one to plant outside. Having something to nurture helped the girls feel less of a loss in their house.
b. Dan’s new apartment had a swimming pool—something his son had not had regular access to before. He set up a special ‘swim closet’ in new place and let his son Eric decorate the walls with stickers, pictures of fish, and hooks in the shape of fish. Eric picked out a beach towel and several pool toys and stored it in the ‘swim closet’. Later the Eric told him this was the one place in Dan’s apartment that felt truly ‘his’.