Birdnesting: a new divorce trend for parents

Birdnesting or nesting is an arrangement made by parents after a divorce or separation to help keep stability in their children’s lives.

It involves children staying in the family home, the ‘nest’, while the parents take it in turns to live there with them and care for them.

Considered a more collaborative approach to parenting, it has become more popular over recent years as parents share child care between them.

The parents have a separate home to go to when they are not with the children. Financial considerations sometimes mean that this is a small flat, shared accommodation or even moving back in with parents.

The advantages of nesting

The benefits for children include the fact that they do not have to be uprooted and potentially move away from their school and friends. Their home and everything around them will stay much the same, reducing the disruption to their lives.

It can also give parents breathing room to consider their options and make plans for the future. In fact, many parents use this step as a transition period. It can prevent parents making quick decisions that later turn out not to be right for them or their children.

A period of nesting can also help children adapt to the fact that their parents are no longer together without the stress of a sudden change. For everyone concerned, the fact that the familiar family home still exists can be of comfort. With an increasing awareness of children’s mental health needs and rising house prices, more couples are giving nesting serious consideration.

Disadvantages of nesting

Every family is different, and for some nesting might not be the right choice. There is a risk that it can feel as though the process of separation is being drawn out and that a level of stress continues to exist because of this. In some situations, a clean break might be preferable.

For younger children, it could also be confusing. They might assume that their parents will be getting back together at some stage, rather than starting to accept the new reality.

It can also be difficult for parents to live between two homes instead of starting afresh somewhere new.

Tips for successful nesting

The practicalities of nesting mean that it is not for everyone. It requires a huge level of cooperation as well as good communication between the parties.

Decisions will need to be made about possibly contentious issues such as cleaning, upkeep, food, bills and access to the property. There is also the consideration of how a potential new partner will fit into the equation. If arguments are likely over these issues, it might be better to separate completely.

Studies have been carried out in Sweden, where nesting originated in the 1950s, comparing the mental health of children who were nested compared with those who had normal joint custody arrangements in place. The results suggest there is little difference between the two.

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