Should children stay overnight with absent parent?

Nicola Furmston

A new book by childcare guru and psychologist Penelope Leach suggests that children under the age of four, and in particular under the age of two, should not have sleepovers with a parent who is not their primary care-giver.

Her theory is that sleepovers for those under four are damaging to the secure attachment that a child needs to have with a parent and can lead to insecurity and anxiety later in life. Understandably this attitude has affronted many separated fathers.

Evidence suggests that children benefit from having a happy healthy relationship with both parents, as self-esteem is intrinsically linked to children identifying themselves with characteristics of their parents. The new ‘Child Arrangements Orders’ enable the court to make such orders as are required to make suitable provision for children to see both parents.

The concept of ‘shared parenting’ is not, however, enshrined in law as experts are keen to establish that parents can have meaningful relationships with their children even if 50% of a child’s time is not spent with each of them.

Nicola Furmston is a solicitor specialising in the family field at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Ipswich.