A Parent’s Guide to BIRDNESTING with Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D.
The family law community calls the process Dr. Buscho describes as Birdnesting, simply Nesting. Birdnesting is an east coast version of west coast Nesting. But they are both the same approach to co-parenting: The children remain in the family home while each parent moves in and out on their scheduled time with the children. This form of co-parenting supports the children in that they don’t have to be shuffled back and forth between their parents’ two homes with all the concerns and worries that children have: What if I forget something for school, or leave an outfit at the other house? The point of Bidnesting is to cause the least amount of disruption in their children’s lives in light of the emotional havoc that typically comes with divorce.
Parenting plans in whatever configurations are difficult on the parents and the children. But Birdnesting seems to be the trickiest of all. The percentage of people who use this parenting plan arrangement successfully is small, but when it can work, it really can help the children adjust to the divorce better.
Ann has lots of worksheets throughout the book so that parents can determine if Birdnesting works for them. Most of the worksheets and questionnaires focus on communication, respect, trust and safety. Bushco uses the term “good-enough communication”, meaning that there is a threshold of what communication can sound like in order to make nesting work. Once a divorce is underway, communication may lack the warmth that it once had when the parents were in a good space in the marriage, while it is at least respectful and cordial.
Communication is the key in establishing a nesting routine because the parents are still sharing a home, with all the little day-to-day issues that can chip away at patience and civility, like housekeeping, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, coordinating the children’s school and extra-curricular activities, and doctor visits. Prior to divorce there is generally a breakdown in communication in the marital relationship, making communication in any version of a co-parenting plan difficult. But communication, respect and trust are essential for nesting to work. Parents have to move past the reason for the divorce so that their communication can be “snark-free” of jabs and insinuations.
Written and verbal communication have to be guilt-free, non-accusatory, respectful, and straightforward. Communication is solely about the children and their needs. Another great author of books on divorce, and communication techniques for co-parents, is Bill Eddy. He addresses the most extreme challenges in communication and that is when personality disorders exist in one parent.
And ya gotta clean up after yourself and the children, out of respect for the other parent when it’s their time at the family home. If being messy was a problem in the marriage, it’s going to be a problem in nesting. Parents have to be realistic and honest with themselves in determining if they can overcome this habit. Maybe this can be a good time to address individual housekeeping and personal habits. Learning how to clean up after ourselves has no downside, and it shows respect for the other parent in not having to clean up after them.
Another question is whether parents can set aside their negative feelings toward the other parent for the sake of their children. If parents can go through what is called The Emotional Divorce before filing for the Legal Divorce, it makes the transition to post-divorce so much better. I wish Webster had invented an Emotional Vocabulary and an Emotional Dictionary for people to reference when too emotional to be respectful to one another. When one parent chooses the respectful communication and behavioral route it makes it hard for the other parent to continue to be an a**hole.
Bushco explains that “Nesting provides a period of calm and stability that can help children adjust to their parents’ separation.” I can understand this, but how do the children react if their parents are in a state of emotional upheaval as they move in and out of the house? Answer: They don’t. This makes nesting too hard. This is when two separate homes have to be established and the children have to travel back and forth.
There are a list of other factors that Dr. Ann addresses in her book:
1. How long should birdnesting last?
2. Nesting Dealbreakers
3. Managing Different Co-Parenting Styles: Parallel Parenting (minimal communicating) vs Co-Parenting (Maximum Communication)
4. Power struggles between parents
5. New Relationships / Step-Parents: How does nesting work, or can it, if one of the parents remarried? There was a New York Times article earlier this year that described a living arrangement in which Dad lived upstairs in a townhouse setting with his new girlfriend while Mom lived downstairs. The children had complete access to the entire house all the time, and the family became one big extended family! Now that’s unique, even in the world of successful nesting.
Best Interests of the Child and Best Interests of the Parents can be achieved with good intention, respectful communication, and thoughtful behavior.
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About Our Guest Dr. Ann Gold Buscho, PhD.
Dr. Buscho is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in family issues and issues related to divorce., parenting, parent planning, and co-parenting counseling. She has professional and personal experience in nesting, co-parenting, stepparenting, and single-parenting issues. She has presented widely at state and national conferences for attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals on collaborative divorce, forgiveness practices, nesting during divorce, and consensual dispute resolution.
Dr. Buscho is also a founder of a residential treatment program for traumatized emergency responders and their families at which she volunteers regularly. A graduate of Stanford University and the California Graduate School of Psychology, she lives in San Rafael, California.
Ann writes regularly for Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/better-divorce?eml) and other online publications, and has been a frequent guest on podcasts and radio programs relating to family issues.