Daily Press (Sunday)

Plan might be difficult for child

Look for ways to support all caregivers.

- Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@gmail. com

Dear Dr. Blackstone: My ex-boyfriend and I have been apart for six months. Our daughter is 14 months old. After we broke up, he moved in a new girlfriend a month later. I worry if that’s too soon for our daughter. My daughter is with her dad every other weekend Thursday-Sunday. I have nicely asked this girl to stay away from my daughter, but she ignores me! She acts like her mother. Now my daughter cries when I pick her up because she doesn’t know who I am. What’s good ex-etiquette?

Dear Reader: We all understand how tough it is to break up, especially if you have kids. Plus, if one of you moves on very quickly, that only adds to the other parent’s anxiety. Add grief and jealousy, anger and revenge — all those dreadful emotions that go along with splitting up, and you have a lot to contend with while trying to put on a happy face for a little one.

Unfortunat­ely, the parenting plan you mentioned might be a little difficult for your daughter at her place of developmen­t.

Toddlers experience separation anxiety in the first and second years of life, even in the safety of their own home. You probably have seen this when you walk out of the room. She gets fussy and cries to be soothed. That behavior is quite normal for a child that age.

You’ve establishe­d a primary home — yours — but every other weekend she leaves for four days.

The courts may support this sort of parenting plan, but it really doesn’t coincide with what the psychologi­cal community suggests in terms of child developmen­t.

One might expect to find extensive research on alternativ­e custody arrangemen­ts for very young children, but there is very little to reference. Plus family courts nationwide disagree with the how many nights a toddler should be away from their primary caregiver.

Add that both parents may work outside of the home and additional caregivers are present — all this can make it quite confusing for a little one.

Having said that, I’m sure your child knows you. I suspect that her crying when you pick her up has very little to do with her father’s girlfriend.

The best thing you can do at this juncture is look for ways to support all caregivers who offer a nurturing, protective environmen­t so your child feels consistent­ly safe and secure. I know you probably hate to hear that, but since your child must go back and forth, the fact that she is loved and cared for at both homes is in her best interest.

Finally, I have to support you in your concern about introducin­g new partners too early after a breakup. Introducin­g someone before you know where they fit in your life long term is just plain selfish. Kids get attached. You can’t just move someone in because it’s easier and then move them out because it’s not.

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