Parents who are in the process of a divorce usually have a big question on their mind: how will this affect my children? No matter the age of the child, the uncertainty of what the future may look like is bound to bring many concerns your way. But how does divorce affect children who are too young to remember this time clearly?

Infants and toddlers are at a delicate stage in their lives. At the same time, they might not have the capacity to fully understand what is happening when their two parents go through a divorce. But even though they might not mentally understand what is happening, babies are affected by divorce. Knowing how they might be feeling can help you understand how to best help them adapt to the sudden change they will experience.

How does a divorce affect a baby in the long run?

To be clear: divorce is not inherently bad for baby. Young children are like sponges and an unhappy family life can have long-lasting effects on them. If your divorce is giving you the opportunity to create a better, happier environment for your child, then it is to their benefit. In fact, over 80% of children with divorced parents prefer that their parents’ divorce rather than having them stay for the kids.

Infants are too young to understand what is happening during a divorce and they are highly unlikely to remember any specific details about this time. While older children might remember the time before the divorce and feel disconnect because of the change, babies will start developing memories after the change has occurred. Your life post-divorce will just be what they understand as normal.

How to help acclimate your baby to changes after a divorce

Divorce usually leads to a change in the day-to-day operations of a household. It is these changes that can be difficult for a baby – who doesn’t know why things are different – to adapt to. Here are some ways that you can help your baby adapt to the transitional period:

  • Stick to a schedule. Babies thrive on structure so the best thing you can do to help them adapt to any change is getting them on a routine and sticking to it. Consistency is key for your baby’s comfort.
  • Keep things familiar. Sometimes during a divorce, you and your baby might end up in a completely different home. Even when there are big environmental changes like this, having items or rituals that feel familiar can be helpful and comforting.
  • Consider leaning on loved ones. Seeing familiar, loving people is also helpful for a baby to make sense of the change. Loved ones can also help support you during this time, lessening the burden on you.
  • Communicate with your child’s other parent, if applicable. Children benefit from having parents who communicate with one another about co-parenting. Being on the same page as your child’s other parent can help make transitions easier, especially in situations involving split custody. However, consider communication carefully in situations involving abuse or domestic violence. You may also consider finding a qualified third party to help facilitate these conversations. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate situations like these.
  • Take care of yourself, too. Because babies don’t have the cognitive ability to understand complex situations, they heavily rely on emotional cues from their caretakers. You can easily transfer your stress or negative feelings to your baby without intending to. Make sure you are making time to care for own wellbeing.

Understanding how an infant adapts to change can be helpful when figuring out custody during a divorce. Consider contacting an experienced family law attorney as you discuss custody so that you can make the most informed decision for your child moving forward.