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Small children and divorce


A typical question:

My wife said it is not healthy for a child to share 1 week with one parent and another week with the other parent. I have a 3 year old boy. Please give me some advice on this matter.

An answer
by Rick Kuhn, divorced dad, Research evaluator for the Children's Rights Council:

Dozens of studies conducted over the past 20 years have shown overwhelmingly that shared parenting is the best arrangement for children. When I had to work out arrangements for my kids, I reviewed all the literature I could find, and paid the library to search dissertation abstracts for every dissertation on joint custody. About 2/3 of the existing research shows shared parenting to be better than sole custody; and the other 1/3 finds no difference. Today there's a lot on the internet.

My youngest was just 2 when my ex and I separated. We have had a 50/50 alternating week schedule ever since then. He's now nearly 7, and I don't think you could find a more good natured, well adjusted kid anywhere. It's especially important for young children to have lots of time with both parents.

One recommendation though: some of the research indicates that younger kids shouldn't go more than a couple of days without seeing both parents.
Some people alternate days, but we found that the best approach was to have the "off duty" parent pick up the kids after school on Monday and Wednesday, then go back to the "on duty" parent's house around 8:30 or so in the evening. That way they're at the same house for the whole week, but still see both parents at least every other day.
It's also a good idea to try to keep the houses close together. Ours are within a short walk, and it's worked out wonderfully. My situation was no more amicable than any other, but after we worked out this arrangement for the kids, it went very well.
When both parents want to continue being parents it's destructive not to work out a shared parenting arrangement. I think one of the reasons sole custody tends to produce problems for kids is that conflict between parents is inevitable when one is forced to become a visitor to his or her own children. One more suggestion: work out ALL details in the separation agreement. This can be a little tougher to get in place, but it makes things much easier down the line.



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