Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Special Needs of Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers are at an age where they are first coming into their own. They are expressing their independence and often their fickleness. In an intact family, were a toddler to say, "I don't like Mommy," neither parent would give it a moment's worth of serious consideration. But when parents are divorced, such statements can be distressing to parents. A toddler might say she doesn't like Mommy or Daddy simply because everything in her world is subject to a thumbs-up or thumbs-down evaluation depending on whether she is being allowed to do what she wants at the time. By the same token a toddler might state that he does not like Mommy or Daddy because it is time to take a bath and he doesn't want to be interrupted from what he is doing.
Keeping this in mind will help prevent you from drawing erroneous conclusions about what happens when your toddler is in the other parent's care. If you hear something from your toddler that sounds unsettling, reach out to the co-parent by saying something like "Mary mentioned something to me after coming home from your house. It was a bit confusing, so I was hoping we could discuss it."
Concerned parents should be very willing to jump through hoops to show that they can care for their children, but sometimes they are frustrated. However, sometimes it might seem like no matter what they do their competence is always being questioned. This can bring a lot of stress in the co-parenting relationship, so please consider what you might be insinuating to the co-parent when you question what goes on during visitation.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
In toddlers and preschool-aged children, problems can occur because children this age can communicate—but not enough. Parents with children in this age group can prevent a co-parenting disaster, as well as accusations that are made out of overprotective worry and nervousness, by talking about the children between visits and by keeping an open line of communication about bumps, bruises, scraped shins, chipped teeth, shoes that might be too tight and need replacing, and other normal and predictable things that happen to children between two and five years of age.
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