The Benefits of a Two-Home Family
If you feel trapped in an unhealthy relationship but think you should stay together for the kids, separation may not be as daunting as you think. Separating from your spouse or partner in a healthy way can lead to all kinds of co-parenting advantages, including greater individuality, clearer familial communications and even better sex or romantic lives for the adults involved.
In fact, assuming both adults are making the needs of the children and their efforts to co-parent a priority, there are many benefits to co-parenting from separate households.
When children have to move from one house to another, they acknowledge and adapt to subtle domestic changes. In doing so, they cultivate new skills and become more flexible to meet the demands that may be placed upon them later in life.
We all want healthy consistency for our children, such as dependable nutrition, expectations, shelter and comforts. Children with proactive co-parenting adults get an opportunity to understand how to cope with change and work with reasonable solutions. One parent might expect homework to be done before dinner, the other might expect the work to be done before bed. In lieu of dealing with quiet conflict existing between disagreeing adults, the child is able to experiment with both approaches and determine if either strategy is right for them and their work habits.
A key aspect is for both households to strive for and uphold the child's healthy development as a priority, rather than appeasing either adult's ego or personal preferences. Of course, if parents are unable to support one another and don't encourage their children to respect the baseline needs of each adult within their homes, conflict will occur.
Children will grow up and live with different types of housemates, houseguests, romantic partners and other possible living arrangements involving other people. By getting an early start on domestic adaptability and communication skills that foster mutual household satisfaction for all parties, they may be better prepared for the more complex aspects of adult living and sharing a home.
Separated parents with different communication styles can benefit a child's social development. A common misconception about co-parenting and communication is that word-for-word consistency is key, when in reality this might prevent children from being able to develop the emotional intelligence that will suit them well when encountering new forms of conflict or communication in others.
Many single-household parenting teams might assume by passively supporting each other about every topic in both content and communication style, they are avoiding conflict and thereby creating a happier home and a better atmosphere for their children. Unfortunately, avoiding conflict isn't always realistic for adults, and this kind of misrepresentation can create a communicative vacuum, which leaves children unable to flex their social skills in unsupervised scenarios.
Meanwhile, it's virtually impossible for parents living in separate homes to falsify consistency in communication. Inevitably, the intelligent and observant child is going to notice discrepancies in how each parent approaches things from a linguistic and empathetic perspective.
If one parent is heavily invested in emotional nuance and the other in logic, neither should be presented to the child as superior to the other. If one household approaches conflict directly, while the other has a more passive and relaxed approach, well, guess what? Both types of people exist in the real world as well. Understanding communicative diversity is a skill a young person can use for the rest of their lives.
Tom Arnold, actor and comedian, discusses co-parenting his two kids with his ex-wife. Watch the full interview here.
Options in a crisis
Speaking of crisis, wouldn't it be great if we all had multiple options for hunkering down when unexpected troubles come our way?
Take the coronavirus, for example. If one parent were diagnosed with the virus, what a relief for a second parent to have a separate, safe and familiar household for the child to quarantine in. Many single-household families probably don't have this option, whereas separated parents of children might benefit in this case.
Of course, it could also be said in the case of separated parents, when one gets sick, they don't always have the immediate support of the other. But, to be fair, if parents sharing a household are experiencing marital or domestic issues, they may be reluctant with this kind of support as well. Plus, not all crises require first-aid support from another parent.
If the co-parenting adults are truly committed to looking out for one another as well as the kids, the whole family can benefit from access to two households. In a natural disaster such as a flood or hurricane, the affected parent might be able to join the children in seeking refuge with the unaffected parent. Once again, all of these situations are subject to variables and require both adults to commit to putting the needs of the whole family first.
Benefits for all
Separated parents have a number of opportunities to create improvements in their own lives, some of which may benefit their children. As head of their own household, they can each encourage and enforce the standards they expect from the children with less risk of direct contradiction from the other parent. It may be confusing for the kids at first, but eventually the different households will represent unique places, rather than one place split into two.
Meanwhile, being able to explore and enhance your personal life in healthy ways puts you in a better position to respond to the evolving needs of your child or children. Having time to yourself during breaks in shared custody gives you the opportunity to date, work, socialize or self-improve, as you see fit. This allows you to role-model healthy adult behaviors and experience restful breaks from the high levels of responsibility associated with supervising children.
Obviously, the assumption that both households are able to communicate effectively and uphold healthy values consistently might seem like a big one to some. But it's safe to say managing an unhealthy or toxic relationship doesn't make it any easier to do so, whether a family shares a home or migrates between several of them.