Likely the singular most-often heard complaint from children about divorce, other than the fact their parents are divorcing, is the prospect of having to live in and shuttle between two different households. We can certainly appreciate that having to uproot your sense of place every week or every few days can be a difficult adjustment for some, if not many, children. Is there a different alternative?
As discussed in this article in Psychology Today, some parents have tried “bird’s nest” co-parenting, a schedule where the parents and not the children move between households. In this arrangement, the parents agree to maintain the marital residence for the children, and the parents will move in and out of this residence pursuant to the custody schedule. In this way, the children never have to experience the shuttling and uprooting of which they so frequently complain – they have the same bed, the same clothes, the same routine in familiar surroundings. It would certainly reduce any transition anxiety.
To make this work, parents must make certain sacrifices. First, the parents must be able to work well together at co-parenting so that such an arrangement would even be feasible. Parents that cannot put the children first and appear to interact well with each other would not be good candidate for a bird’s nest. Also, this arrangement requires a financial cost – the marital residence must be jointly maintained, and each parent must have a separate residence or agree to rotate out of the same second residence (a less costly but for many too-close-for-comfort scenario). On the upside financially, having the children in one main home eliminates the need for duplicate clothes, furniture, etc.
If parents opted for this arrangement, it would have to be voluntary, as no court could force such an arrangement on parents in Missouri as our current statutes are presently written.
While the bird’s nest concept seems appealing for the children because of its child-centered focus, that very trait can be its single strongest criticism. A child of divorce could feel less important or more guilt because of the family coming apart, but the child also becomes far more empowered in a bird’s nest arrangement. In a world where we have too much “me” children, the bird’s nest arrangement could lead to more egocentric behavior and/or manipulation. Also, the bird’s nest gives an unrealistic portrait of life after divorce – if the parents remarry, how can the children integrate into a new blended family?
Given its many complications, bird’s nest arrangements will not appeal to many parents, but its child first approach does help keep parents thinking about the best interests of the children and working together.
If you have questions about bird’s nest parenting, contact us – we can help.