At a recent presentation about age-appropriate contact with children whose parents have gone through, or are going through a divorce, Lynette Roux of the South Africa Association of Mediators showed that children, particularly small children, need regular contact with both parents. An ideal arrangement for small children is that they have at least short periods of contact with each parent every day.
However, many divorcing parents can’t have such regular contact because of where they live and work, or because they are unable to deal with the emotion of having close contact with their ex-partner on a daily basis.
The first challenge can be overcome with the aid of technology such as Skype, which gives parents a way to have regular ‘face-to-face’ contact with their children. Although not as rich as physical interaction, it gives children more consistency and stability in their relationship with the parent they don’t live with and is more effective than longer, more sporadic periods of interaction.
However, in situations where there is, for example, domestic violence, this level of contact is not suitable and a different solution, such as supervised contact, is a better option for the child.
Another very interesting concept that has become popular in the United States is ‘child nesting’. Both parents move in and out of the marital home and the children live there permanently. This is a very effective way to lessen the disruptive impact of divorce on the children and gives them continuity in their home environment rather than them having to constantly move between their parents’ homes.
The option of child nesting is not possible for all divorcing couples, particularly because the marital home is often the most valuable asset a couple owns and not many people can afford to have separate accommodation while the other parent is with the children. When parties remarry and have second families, the arrangement can also become very complicated. However, if a couple is financially and emotionally able to set up such an arrangement for their children, it is a valuable idea for them to consider.