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Does Joint Custody Confuse a Child?
Q: My ex-husband and I are trying our best to raise our 4-year-old son. We do not argue -- in fact we are great friends now -- but we share him 50/50. He stays three days a week with one of us and then four the next. He seems to be a very well adjusted little boy, but I am just courious if we are doing him harm by bouncing him back and forth. It is a pretty set schedule.
A: Sounds to me like you and his dad are doing a most commendable job raising your little boy. I maintain that kids from a divorced family are best served by as much love and contact they can get from both parents. You have maintained a productive friendship with your ex and your son has not been placed in the middle of bitterness and disrespect. The fact that you have agreed and focused upon maintaining the same, consistent discipline and encouraging words in both households helps him feel secure and loved. I understand your concern for "bouncing" him back and forth every week but you report that he has adjusted to this schedule. Keeping this schedule as regular as possible will continue to offer him stability.
You do need to start thinking about how you are going to handle the custodial and shared parenting responsibilities when he goes to school or if one of you is planning on moving in the near future. Based on the thoughtfulness you have already demonstrated, I am sure that you will work out an arrangement based on your son's best interests and developmental needs. Keep up the great parenting. Thanks for offering us all an example of how divorced parents can keep their "eyes on the prize."
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.