By Guest Blogger Carol Anne Sowell, home decorator and stager
The security and predictability a home provides children helps strengthen family relationships. Children of single parents often divide this crucial period of growth between two dwellings – Mom’s house and Dad’s house. And with the mother being named the custodial parent in most divorce cases, it can be a challenge for the father’s residency to feel equally like home.
Several years ago, my brother became a single father to his toddler daughter. He had to quickly learn the responsibilities that are often assumed by moms . . . such as how to style a three-year old’s ponytail.
It was extremely important to my brother – as I am sure it is with all dads – that his daughter feel at-ease and secure in his home. To achieve this, he would occasionally ask for decorating assistance. These conversations served as the foundation to me becoming a decorator.
Below are some techniques he utilized to make his house a family home.
Personalize Children’s Rooms
When the opportunity presents itself, allow the children to choose certain elements in their room like the theme, paint color, or furnishings. This practice can lead to feelings of connection to the home.
Additionally, special belongings such as toys, books, and pictures of family and friends that stay permanently at Dad’s can also help the house feel familiar and comfortable.
Everything in the Home has a Home
Organization in any home has been shown to lead to less stress, better sleep, and more productivity.
A designated space at the entrance to the home to collect coats, shoes, and bags can easily be attained by adding a small bench and baskets and a wall cubby with hooks.
Everyday items around the house can keep children’s spaces organized and tidy. A mug or unique tumbler can serve as a pen and pencil holder. A shoe box wrapped in craft paper can be used as a drawer divider, an organizer for phone chargers, or storage for hair accessories. An antique wooden bowl can be a substitute for a valet tray.
One reliable way for Dad’s house to feel like home is for Dad to host childhood celebrations. Throughout the years, my brother has hosted several events in honor of his daughter, including birthday parties, a First Communion celebration, and play dates with friends.
Coordinating such events reiterates to the children, as well as to the adults involved, Dad’s capability in taking the lead in celebrating childhood milestones and planning fun experiences.
If Dad’s house has a yard, this is a wonderful place to make family memories and it requires only a few outdoor items. For instance, a firepit, chairs, and blankets can produce a delightful setting for roasting s’mores and storytelling.
A small yard can also allow for a host of outdoor family-bonding activities, such as dinner on the grill, tossing a football, or a friendly game of cornhole.
We are all aware of the advantages children gain from quality family-time, like improvement in academic performance, less behavioral problems, and greater self-confidence. When children divide their time between two family homes, they have an opportunity to receive these tremendous benefits twofold.
In the comments below, feel free to share suggestions on how you – or a single dad you know – achieve the feeling of home.
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These are great tips! Thank you for recognizing that many dads are invested and desire to be great parents as well.
Carol Anne, you are a natural writer when it comes to words, composition and message content. I really enjoyed your blog.
Helpful article for dads new to single
Thank you. I’m a single dad and I need help. When my daughter comes to stay with me she tends to leave her overnight bag on the floor with her clothes in it rather than putting them in drawers etc. So the weekend is spent stepping over bags of clothes and book bags etc. It ends up feeling more like a sleepover than a weekend with dad. Do you have a nice solution to this?
Great question! A couple of suggestions: If her closet has the space, a cubby storage unit might be a simple solution for her to remove her belongings from her overnight bag. The bag could then be stored on top of the unit. Her book bag could be hung on a sturdy robe hook on a side wall in the closet (using anchors or studs).
If her closet is small, her book bag could be hung on an over-the-door-hook inside (or outside of her closet) and a luggage rack or two at the end of her bed would keep her overnight bag off of the floor.
Great ideas. I’ll implement those. Thank you!
Great ideas! It’s always a challenge to create a comfortable space in an uncomfortable situation.
Thanks for the pointers. Do you have any idea on sharing a pet between the homes of divorced parents?
Your brother sounds like a great dad with useful hints!
Thank you for your question.
This is a common question for divorced families with pets. Of course, the parents will need to decide what is best for their situation. One suggestion, if manageable, is the pet stays with the child(ren). My niece’s dog accompanies her to both parent’s houses. This takes planning and extra effort but it has afforded some valuable benefits as well. She has the love and companionship of her pet while at both homes and it also has been an opportunity for her to learn responsibility.