In 2014, delegates from the scientific, family profession and civil society sectors of over twenty countries attended the First International Conference on Shared Parenting. Among their areas of consensus was the following conclusion:
shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents. The amount of shared parenting time necessary to achieve child well being and positive outcomes is a minimum of one-third time with each parent, with additional benefits accruing up to and including equal (50-50) parenting time, including both weekday (routine) and weekend (leisure) time.
The benefits of shared custody apply even to very young children, according to a recent consensus report by 110 child development experts entitled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children,” published in the APA journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law (Feb. 2014). The report concluded that
A broad consensus of accomplished researchers and practitioners agree that, in normal circumstances, the evidence supports shared residential arrangements for children under 4 years of age whose parents live apart from each other. . . . decision makers should recognize that depriving young children of overnights with their fathers could compromise the quality of developing father-child relationships. Sufficient evidence does not exist to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. The theoretical and practical considerations favoring overnights for most young children are more compelling than concerns that overnights might jeopardize children’s development.
Knowing that shared parenting may be the best long-term option for your children’s development, how do you make it work for you? A few suggestions:
- Tolerate Different Parenting Styles: Maybe when you were an intact household, you were the children’s primary caregiver. Now the children have two homes, and you worry the other parent won’t know what to do. Maybe dad (or mom) never changed a diaper or doesn’t know how to make the PB&J just right— rest assured, he will figure it out, and your children will likely benefit from adapting to different parenting styles. It may also help if you both read the same parenting books. One that I like to suggest for divorcing parents is Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce by Dr. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll. A couple of good ones for kids are: Standing on My Own Two Feet: A Child’s Affirmation of Love in the Midst of Divorce by Tamara Schmitz (for younger children), and Divorce Is Not the End of the World: Zoe’s and Evan’s Coping Guide for Kids by Zoe and Evan Stern (for older children).