Birdnesting: A way for parents to ease their kids’ divorce distress

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2021 | Child Custody, Divorce

Baltimore Orioles are brilliant orange and black songbirds that typically build their nests high in oak and maple trees near the ends of slender branches. The locations of the hanging pouch nests serve as a defense against predators in search of the Maryland state birds’ eggs that range in color from bluish-white to pale gray.

Both Oriole moms and dads feed and care for their offspring – a nurturing behavior found in humans, too, though we often have more complicated relationships that can include dating apps, honeymoons in exotic places, divorces and shared custody plans.

Easing divorce distress

In fact, when parents divorce, more and more of them are “birdnesting” as a way to help minimize the upheaval and ease the stress of their split on their children.

Birdnesting (also called “nesting”) enables kids to continue living in the family home and spending time with each parent there. The mother and father stay in the home during agreed-upon custody periods, then bunk in their own home or apartment at other times.

In a recent news report on birdnesting, the BBC said the concept’s name was inspired by birds who keep their young safe in the nest while moms and dads take turns flying in and out to gather food.

Keeping stability

“We wanted to keep stability for the kids, and not just tear up everything all at once,” said a 38-year-old father whose family birdnested after he and his wife separated. “The children could keep their home, school and friends as before.”

Divorce attorneys say the phenomenon is on the rise in the US, UK, Australia and the Netherlands, the report stated.

Dr. Ann Buscho, an American therapist who wrote “The Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting: A Child-Centered Solution to Co-Parenting During Separation and Divorce” says for many divorcing and divorced parents, nesting is a “transitional or temporary arrangement.” However, some of her clients have birdnested for years, she says.

Safety, security

Some parents turn to nesting because it can be both a way to live their own lives and help their kids feel safe and secure in familiar physical surroundings.

“People have become far more savvy about needing to think about their children’s development,” a family law attorney told the BBC. “I think that is a really, really good progression, basically, because often those issues were pushed to the background, and it was the parents’ often problematic separations which came to the fore.”

Buscho believes nesting is healthier for children because it allows them to maintain existing routines while adapting to a fundamental family change. She says that when young adults or older children reflect on their nesting experiences, they’ll often express the sentiment that “our parents carried the burden of the divorce and we didn’t have to.”