If you've broken up with their mum, new research says that bub still needs overnight stays at your place.
Divorce is a shitty thing for everyone. (Except divorce lawyers – they love it… and it takes a special kind of person to profit from the misery of others…)
But divorce is an especially crappy experience when there are kids involved. They often feel somehow responsible for mummy and daddy going their separate ways – and in some of the more bitter divorces, they’ll end up being used as pawns between parents who can’t see eye to eye.
On top of that, getting custody of your kids – in any form as a dad – can be extremely difficult. It’s no secret that in disputes over which parent becomes the primary carer, it’s more often mums who’ll be favoured by the courts, especially when the kids are very, very young.
And it’s also no secret that for some dads, even getting to see your kids, let alone have them sleep over every now and then – can be a minefield to negotiate. It’s the source of untold quantities of angst for a lot of dads – something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Of course, there are circumstances where getting any sort of custody simply won’t happen – if you’ve been abusive, had substance abuse issues or there’s any hint that your kids might be in danger… yeah, you probably won’t be able to have the little ones over to stay the night. That’s on you… you made your bed, you lie in it.
But if you’re not deemed to be a danger, and your ex simply doesn’t want to let you have the kids stay the night, we’ve got some good news for you… Science says that sleepovers at dad’s place are a Good Thing, including and especially when they are still babies and toddlers!
Good for kids, good for dads… and good for mums as well. Here’s why…
Here comes the research
A team at Arizona State University looked at the relationships kids had with their families – and specifically into a question that had been bothering psychologists, politicians and policy-makers and for decades: whether or not children, when they are still very young, should have frequent sleepovers at dad’s place or whether it would have negative impacts on their relationship with the mother.
The answer, according to the research paper is a resounding “no”.
Lead author of the study, ASU associate professor of psychology William Fabricius, is very clear on the issue – not only is there zero negative impact on the children’s relationship with their mother, but there’s a measurable benefit for everyone involved, dads, kids and mums.
“Not only did overnight parenting time with fathers during infancy and toddlerhood cause no harm to the mother-child relationship, it actually appeared to benefit children’s relationships with both their mothers and their fathers,” Fabricius said.
“Children who had overnights with their fathers when they were infants or toddlers had higher-quality relationships with their fathers as well as with their mothers when they were 18 to 20 years old than children who had no overnights,” he continued.
More details, please!
According to the study, there are a number of solid benefits that stem from having sleepovers – even when the child is an infant or toddler.
For starters, having dad involved in actually being a father – including getting into the homely routines of feeding, bathing and bedtime – builds a stronger bond between them both. And the research says that a strong bond from as early as possible will last through childhood and into adulthood, as well.
“Studies have shown that programs that encourage married dads to take more responsibility for infant care help those dads learn better parenting skills, and we think that the same kind of thing happens when divorced dads have overnight parenting time,” Fabricius said.
On top of that, the researchers found that mums reported a better relationship with their children when the kids were overnighting at dad’s place – something the scientists put down to mum being relieved of some of the pressure of being a sole-carer for the kids, and getting some time to herself as well.
The most important part…
Perhaps the most important part of the study revolves around the circumstances of the divorce.
The study found that the benefits for everyone were the same regardless of whether the overnight stays were court-ordered, or whether they were agreed to between the two parents.
Likewise, the benefits were the same between low-conflict and high-conflict divorce proceedings.
So… if you’re having trouble convincing your ex to let you have the kids for a sleepover, and her excuse is that they’re ‘still too young’, there’s some hope – and this study proves that it’s going to help all of you be as much of a family as you can possibly be.