When a marriage breaks down there is a lot of dividing up. Assets, furniture, money but I encourage you to be really careful to not make the mistake of confusing the dividing of objects or money with dividing up people. All too often I hear parents and lawyers talking of dividing time spent with children as though they are dividing assets.
Sadly, many standard custody arrangements treat children as objects. Children are also caught up in this division and shared based on what parents perceive as their rights. Often lawyers can be encouraging fathers to go for overnight visits or long days for young children. What they don’t understand I’m sure is how important attachment and emotional development is for their child now and in their future. As hard as it may be to hear, unless parents shared or reversed roles early on in a child’s life then the mother is the primary parent and this can be so hard for a father to understand at this emotional time.
Children are people, it’s important to remember this when trying to work out what is the best arrangement for creating a home for them. Often what is best for children is not in the best interests of parents and what they want. Lots of parents guided by courts go with the week on and week off arrangement. This doesn’t suit most children. The needs of your children must be put first and parenting should become ‘mutual’. Often I advise separating parents that they need to think of their future relationship is one of ‘business partners’, they are in the business of raising children. You need to put aside your own anger, frustrations, eye rolling, sighing and focus on your children.
Penelope Leach puts it well when she says “As people-who-are-parents , you may divorce or leave each other, but you cannot divorce and you should never leave your children.”
I often hear parents making statements such a ‘they will be okay, kids are resilient’ in fact the vast majority of kids are not okay, they will suffer and be hurt, what we do know is that thanks to the research of the last 20 years we as parents, can make it better and help children to cope better and lessen the impact separation has on them. When deciding care and where ‘home’ is for a child think about what they currently consider home to look like and who that involves in taking care of them. This should guide you as a parent as to where and with whom their main home should be with.