Parents going through divorce try to find the right custodial balance that works for them and the children. Some parents worry about how the separation will impact the children who have lived as a family unit in the same house all their lives. One option is somewhat unusual but increasingly utilized – “bird nesting” – as described in this article.
In a typical divorce, the parents each obtain a new residence, and one parent may retain the marital residence as their primary residence. In “bird nesting,” the idea is that the children should not have to shuffle between houses but instead stay constantly in the marital residence, providing minimal disruption to their everyday lives. The parents rotate in and out on a schedule. Usually, both parents agree to share an apartment for when they rotate out.
The principal advantage of bird nesting is that it reduces the stress on the children in the transition from one family unit to two separate households. It gives children reassurance to see how their parents can still maintain close contact even though they do not live together all the time. It gives children the practice of the rhythm of divorce without the immediate change to a new physical location.
Nesting should not be seen as a long-term plan. Children cannot expect the parents to continue to serve their needs in the marital house. It inverts the power dynamic in the parent-child relationship. It also gives children false hope that their parents will reconcile. And on a practical level, it creates a strange situation for the parents who are sharing an apartment and wondering what is happening when the other parent is in the apartment.
Children and parents both need to accept the changed reality of separate homes, different lives. While nesting can smooth this transition, it can also make it harder by pushing an image of post-divorce life that is not real. The longer it goes on, the more likely something will clash between the parents and the issues that led to divorce will surface in a not very pretty way, which in turn will affect the children.
Nesting usually works for parents who get along very well and have low conflict personalities. As one might imagine, this describes a small number of divorcing couples.
If you have questions about bird nesting and divorce, contact us – we can help.