Bird-nest parenting may not be so cool after all

Bird-nest parenting, also called "nesting," has been the latest wave in co-parenting techniques for several years.

Essentially, it's the thing all the cool divorced parents were trying: The kids stayed in the family home so that they experienced minimal disruption to their routine lives, while the parents rotated in and out of the house according to a schedule, like birds taking care of a nest of their young. Often, the parents also shared the expense of a small apartment somewhere else, each occupying it when it wasn't their turn in the "nest" back home.

The problem, experts are finding out, is that kids aren't birds and nesting is something that occurs in harmony among those feathered fellows after which the parenting scheme was modeled. It turns out that nesting doesn't really shield human children from either the disruption of divorce nor the fact that their parents aren't exactly getting along.

Instead, it may be teaching children exactly the wrong messages:

  • That they shouldn't try to adapt (or can't adapt) to change
  • That physical things matter more than the emotional attachments people have to each other
  • That grief over a loss is something to be avoided at all costs, instead of felt and processed as part of the natural order of life

These are not the best messages for kids to be picking up. Nesting teaches kids that their environment (their home, room and toys) are more important than emotional bonds, that emotional bonds with parents are fragile and can be broken if a parent leaves the home for good, that adapting to change is too hard to handle and grieving over the loss they feel isn't something they should be doing (since everyone is clearly going out of their way to make them feel as if no loss has happened).

In addition, nesting brings about potential legal ramifications that can make the divorce much harder. It can impact a spouse's ability to deduct alimony from his or her taxes, affect child support, affect whether or not the spouses can be legally considered separated and change what is legally considered marital and non-marital property.

Before you settle on any form of custody, talk over all of the potential ramifications with an attorney -- and possibly a psychologist. You don't want to create a legal quagmire for yourself or an emotional one for your child.

Source: www.heraldtribune.com, "Parenting: Nesting may not cushion kids from a divorce," Fiona Tapp, Aug. 09, 2017

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