Help students through tough family times by learning about the latest post-divorce, co-parenting trend – birdnesting.
Childhood is difficult for the general population of schoolchildren, but add the stressor of parents who are divorcing and students will likely suffer during the process. A new method of post-divorce childcare has become more popular for its alternative to the adult-centric approach of shared visitation. Birdnesting allows children to remain in the familiar family home, while parents find separate living spaces and, at regularly predetermined intervals, alternate staying with children. This new practice of co-parenting requires parents to have clear, open communication lines, as well as the ability to organize at least two separate homes.
Proponents of birdnesting environments cite the ability of children to enjoy a consistent, more stable home life that might allow them to remain in the house in which they have spent their entire lives. As children are the focus of this living arrangement, the likelihood that they will blame themselves for the divorce might be lower, as the perceived “punishment” of having to be uprooted on a daily, weekly, or bi-weekly basis doesn’t exist. The foundation for birdnesting lies within an understanding between parents and, as recommended by Psychology Today, a co-parenting plan that includes a schedule to alternate living within the house with the child or children.
As birdnesting becomes more popular, teachers should familiarize themselves with the basic foundations and possible ways in which their students will be affected by this lifestyle change that provides a bit more security during the often turbulent shift from divorce.
It’s Not Only for the Rich
Ideally, parents who choose birdnesting will have their own, separate homes in addition to the common home in which children reside. While this seems to be the best arrangement, it is expensive to pay rent and a mortgage on multiple properties. Another option for birdnesting parents is to choose a second apartment or house together and alternate between this and the common home where the children live.
Parents who are able to overcome personal issues with a former spouse for the good of their children might be rich in quality parenting skills, but not wealthy regarding income. When choosing the option of birdnesting, parents might be forced to rely on the kindness of friends and family for shelter during the days when a former spouse is spending time with children. Regardless of the situation, don’t assume that all birdnesting families are wealthy or are able to choose this lifestyle because they are free of financial burdens.
The Child Will Still be in the Middle
Though birdnesting parents seek to minimize the trauma caused to children through uprooting and moving, or hostile custody battles, no solution is a surefire method to reach complete household harmony. Due to divorcees living within close proximity to each other, pre-divorce issues including distribution of household chores, scheduling conflicts, and financial obligations might remain. Combining these existing home environment conditions with new concerns, such as dating, could lead children to feel that they are in the middle. One of the main tenets of successful birdnesting requires parents to refrain from fighting in front of children, but these adults are still human and navigating this new life is tough. Lend an unbiased ear if children are affected by parents’ bickering during this time.
During the transition of divorce, students will need a tightly knit, supportive system of caring adults. Parents might try to compensate for divorce through behaviors such as helicopter parenting or acquiescing a child’s every wish and whim. Work with parents to ensure a student’s well-being by maintaining contact and collaborating with each other.
Remember that whatever your students’ post-divorce living situation, it is a tumultuous time in their lives and they might need a little extra time and support with their school work. Be compassionate and available – and don’t be afraid to reach out if you think any of your students need extra help to process their emotions.