In family law circles, “nesting” is a phrase that is readily understood. However, outside of these circles, this is not the case.
What is ‘bird nesting’?
The family home is often referred to as the “nest” – when children leave home, they “fly the nest”. “Bird nesting,” or “nesting” draws on this metaphor, by placing the family home at the centre of a family where the parents have made the decision to separate. The concept of “bird nesting” is that the nest is maintained, for the benefit of the children, who remain resident there, while the separated parents effectively take turns to care for the children in the “nest”, coming and going as necessary. This results in the positive maintenance of a stable home environment for the children, as many children from separated families struggle to live in two homes – where the school kit they need on any particular day is invariably not in the house it needs to be.
Often when children are told their parents are separating, the scariest part for them is the unknown of where they will live. The reassurance of being told they will remain in the home they know, will continue to sleep in the same bedroom they’ve perhaps always slept in, remain at the same school and take the same route, can significantly help children in dealing with the separation of their parents, minimising the changes they are exposed to.
Parents may arrange a separate, smaller flat or living space, which they move in and out of, as they take turns to reside in the “nest” with the children. Some arrangements see parents having their own individual spaces separate from the family home – perhaps with new partners. Effectively three roofs for one (separated) family. While that is a costlier option, it allows the adults to have their own separate living space.
Will nesting work for us?
What is clear, is the significant level of cooperation and communication required to make a nesting arrangement work. With questions arising around, how will household bills for the family home be met? What arrangements will there be for ensuring the smooth running of that household with food supplies, clean laundry, utilities, and so on? Who will be responsible for the cleaning? When will we get to live our separate financial lives?
Inevitably, it’s not an arrangement that can work for all separated families. But for some, it could be the key to making separation less traumatic for their children. It’s certainly worthy of some serious thought, given the benefits it presents for the future adults of tomorrow.
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