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Parenting arrangements for infants and young children 0-2 years

There has been much talk (or argument) about impacts the on children, both positive and negative, of different patterns of parenting after separation in shared care/ substantial care and high conflict cases.

What is in the child’s best interests?

There is significant argument between parents (although less so between social science experts and judges) about what constitutes proper parenting arrangements for infants and pre schoolers.

There is a movement towards a discrete focus on this age bracket as their developmental needs are much different to older school age and teenage children, particularly when it comes to attachment and separation from their primary attachment person and as lawyers and judges, our focus is on resolving parenting cases that focus on those significant factors.

The key things are identifying the types of attachments each child has with its parents and significant family members and identifying what type of care arrangements minimise damage and trauma to the child in respect of primary attachments and secure attachments with family members.

The issue of overnight time away from a primary carer is often a hard fought argument in these cases in terms of when it starts and how long the period of separation is.

It is important to acknowledge that simply because a child appears to cope with time away from a primary carer, doesn’t mean that damage is actually being caused to the primary attachment relationship.

In a 2010 study by well recognised experts in the field of post separation parenting (McIntosh, Smyth et al) a report was prepared which identified that for the 0-2 age group children who spent one or more nights per week away from their primary carer experienced higher irritability than children who spent less nights away from their primary carer.

Examples of irritability include: the infant being fretful on waking up and/or going to sleep, difficulty amusing self for a length of time, continuing to cry in spite of several minutes of soothing, crying when left to play alone.

Factors such as whether a child is being breastfed also must be factored in. It is not uncommon that a father initially asks for overnight time with a breastfed child, and surprisingly sometimes weekabout time. Their reply when the reality of the breastfeeding practicality is raised is for breastfeeding to cease to allow overnight time with the Father. But for the parents now being separated, ending breastfeeding would not have been raised at that age and stage for the child.

It is these cases where child focus goes out the window and time with young children very much becomes parent focused.

There are matters where somehow parents agree to a weekabout arrangement for a very young child. Agreement doesn’t make it less traumatic or damaging for the child because their actual developmental needs insofar as attachments are concerned are ignored in place of an agreement that somehow seems fair…for the parents.

It is useful to seek advice from a Family Lawyer or psychologist specialising in the children before commencing a potentially harmful parenting regime for a young child.

Partner providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing issues in relation to Equal Shared Parental Responsibility.

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