Let’s face it. Two people living apart cannot live as cheaply as two people sharing the same place. As such, economics can play as much into parenting decisions as does concerns about what may be best for the kids. Two forms of residence sharing typically come up. Broadly speaking, these strategies are known as nesting.
The first arrangement has both parents in the residence at the same time, but occupying different areas. The other has the parents going in and out of the house – depending on their time and responsibilities with the children. These parents may each have an alternate place to stay, or they may be sharing the same space, just not at the same time.
But does nesting work? And what is this like for the kid?
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So much depends on the parents’ ability to respect each other’s boundaries and to be clear with the kids about who is the responsible parent, and when. To the degree to which parents can maintain their boundaries, these remain viable solutions, at least for the short term.
Complicating matters for the longer term are when the parents start dating and/or enter into new relationships. There is only so much room to go around and let’s face it, your former partner will not be happy about bringing your new partner into the shared space. Discussion in advance of these situations emerging can help parents determine how to handle these matters if they do arise. It takes a good degree of emotional maturity and civility to make this work well.
As for the kids, seeing parents cross paths and/or share space may leave some confusion in their mind as to the nature and extent of the separation. It may create a sense of hope for the kids that their parents will reunite. Clarity about each parent’s role, and the economics driving the decision, may help the child understand, depending on their age.
There is also a considerable upside to these arrangements when they work.
These arrangements are usually cost-effective, allowing both parents more time for financial planning. Given that parental conflict is the most important predictor for how kids manage emotionally now, and in their future, seeing their parents act reasonably, share space and responsibilities, and manage conflict well, provides good life lessons for their future.