If you split up with your infant or toddler’s other parent, it can be challenging to come up with custody arrangements that suit your young child’s needs. Parents must keep their child’s best interests foremost in their minds when hashing out the details of custody arrangements for kids four and younger.
Below are some popular custody ideas that work for other parents and that are endorsed by some early childhood experts who work with divorcing parents.
During the child’s first year
In prior generations, the conventional wisdom was that it was less stressful for an infant to live in one home with the primary caregiver parent. While traditionally this person was the mother, that does not have to be the case. The main goals here are bonding, stability and security. Babies tend to do better when both parents remain engaged and involved in their lives.
There is no inherent taboo for parents of infants to share joint custody. The main objective is that the baby is never away from their primary caregiver for more than a day. Babies are quite adaptable and will accept this as normal if that is what they experience from birth or shortly thereafter.
As stated in Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report,
“There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers. Maintaining children’s attachment relationships with each parent is an important consideration when developing parenting plans.”
Toddlerhood introduces children to more outside influences. Those at the older end of the age spectrum can usually spend a couple of nights away from their primary caregiver parent without too much fuss. If the child appears too clingy or stressed from the two-day separation, the custody arrangements can always be adjusted to accommodate your child if they are not yet ready.
Model healthy relationships
The greatest gifts divorced or unmarried parents living apart can give their children is by maintaining a civil and respectful relationship with one another and displaying a willingness to compromise.