Book Excerpt

 

Going through a separation and/or divorce as a family is a challenging time filled with change and uncertainty. Figuring out how to best help children manage this transition is often parents’ primary concern. Who will be with the children when? How will the children be brought from one place to another? One idea that can minimize some of the stress on children is to consider “nesting.” Nesting, or “birds nesting,” as it’s sometimes known, refers to a transitional or temporary arrangement where the children stay in the family home and parents take turns living there and being “on duty” with their children. This plan gives children more time to adapt to changes in the family and means they don’t have to immediately move. Like birds who alternately swoop in and out, caring for the babies while the babies remain safe and secure in their soft, protected nest, parents work together to create a home for their children that is safe, stable, and loving. Parents also use this time to consider the future of their marriage and decide to work on reconciliation or move toward separation or divorce.

 

The main goals of nesting arrangements are to stabilize your family during a difficult time and to provide a respite from conflict. No matter what decisions are ultimately made about your relationship, this period of time could have a strong impact on your children’s lives—but it doesn’t have to be an entirely negative one. Imagine that years from now your children will sit with friends and tell the story of their parents’ relationship. What story do you want them to share? You and your spouse do have some control over how this stage looks and feels to your children. The decisions and actions happening now shape their future narratives. I believe that nesting can offer a better chance for your children to share a healthier and more harmonious recap of the situation—or at least, a less adversarial view of separation or divorce.

 

I am a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience working with children, parents, and families. But I also have firsthand experience with nesting. In 1993 my ex-husband and I set up a nesting agreement in order to keep our children in a stable environment while we made our decisions about the next steps. At that time, few had heard of nesting. Our marriage counselor suggested that we consider this arrangement, and once we discussed it, we agreed. We nested for fifteen months until our divorce was complete, we understood our finances, and we had decided what our future living arrangements would be. Our children (then six, ten, and fourteen) had adjusted to a schedule of shared parenting and were able to begin transitioning between two homes. Looking back, I believe that the nesting period helped all of us to move on and eased the turmoil of the separation and divorce.

 

 

In the course of my own experience, I learned the variety of options available in nesting arrangements, and how each family needs to choose what works best for them. I learned how to set up agreements that meet the needs of the entire family. As an advocate of providing a nesting period for divorcing families, I developed a more detailed and structured approach that helps prevent some of the potential obstacles, some of which my ex and I experienced.