When a couple decides to get a divorce, they usually worry about how to break the news to their children and what their reactions will be. Then comes discussions around splitting time between two homes and the impact this will have on the kids. Joint custody is the solution provided by many family courts, divorce lawyers and therapists. But, is it all it’s cracked up to be? Here is a closer look at how co-parenting between two homes impacts children.
Stronger Need for Organization
Organization and planning are two of the greatest challenges children face when living in two households. Dr. Sharon Saline, a licensed clinical psychologist with almost 30 years of experience, tells Parentology, “It’s particularly hard for kids with ADHD, who naturally struggle with organization, planning and making transitions.”
However, this disadvantage is not without solutions. Saline recommends the following to make the transition as seamless as possible for parents and children:
- Use family calendars to coordinate the week.
- Maintain the same screen time limits and bedtime allowances.
- Provide checklists detailing the essentials kids need to bring with them.
“Otherwise, the split living is more confusing and actually undermines positive relationships with each parent,” Saline adds. “The more parents can work together for the wellbeing of their children — and yes, that often means support from therapists or counselors — the better it is for everyone.”
Exposure to Different Lifestyles
While living in two households does present obstacles, children may benefit from exposure to different lifestyles, even cultures. For instance, ABC News shares the story of a divorced Australian-French couple in France. Their son spends a week on and off with each parent. The boy attends a bilingual school, so when staying with his father, he speaks English and takes the English classes. When staying with his mom, he speaks French and takes his classes in French.
Even when parents live within a few minutes of each other and share the same culture, a simple change in street, zip code or community can open up a whole new world for youngsters. However, when parents live even further apart, children may enjoy the luxury of almost having a summer or vacation home.
Doreen Yaffa, a family and marital law attorney who’s been practicing for 25 years, shares one such example. “In one of my cases, the children when with their father live close enough to the beach so they could spend time there easily,” she tells Parentology. “And when at their mother’s home out west and away from the ocean, they live on five acres of land, which includes a barn with horses and other livestock to enjoy.”
Better Preservation of Mental Health
According to ABC News, co-parenting also allows kids to foster unique relationships with each parent. This benefits not just the children, but the parents, as well. It liberates mom and dad to live a fuller and happier life. Homemakers may now have time to go back to school, start a business, pursue hobbies or date. Breadwinners may work longer hours guilt-free when the children are with the other parent.
Research published in Business Insider agrees. It states that children who split time between each parent enjoyed better health and overall development than children who did not.
That said, co-parenting works best when both parents are responsible and there’s no history of abuse. Parents must also remain committed to working as a team. This helps to make the transition smooth and easy for the children while ensuring they maintain a strong and healthy relationship with both sides. With these basics in place, co-parenting and splitting time between two homes can bring with it myriad advantages.