Robert E. Emery, Ph.D., Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime
The sequel to Bob Emery’s groundbreaking book, The Truth About Children and Divorce, Two Homes takes a deeper dive into parenting plans based on children’s needs. In his words, “the only parenting plan that will last a lifetime is one that grows and changes right along with your children’s changing needs.”
Early in the book, Emery outlines an evidence-based Hierarchy of Children’s Needs in Two Homes modeled on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. In addition to meeting their physiological (food and shelter) and safety needs, children need at least one good parent who provides unconditional love and clear, firm and consistent discipline. Higher-order needs include protection from parental conflicts and, when possible, two parents who work together.
Emery forcefully argues that parents should avoid legalistic definitions of joint physical and legal custody in favor of practical parenting plans. A practical plan takes into consideration children’s ages, personalities, schedules, and maturity, as well as the nature of the relationship between their parents. Parents need to be able to reasonably cooperate with each other for joint physical custody to work. When Mom and Dad cannot contain their conflicts in an angry divorce, children can be harmed by joint physical custody.
The remainder of the book involves a detailed discussion of parenting plans tailored to the needs of children. Emery devotes lengthy chapters to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children, adolescents, and emerging adults. In each, he explains the characteristics of children in that stage of development. He provides recommendations for schedules based on the latest, most comprehensive social science research. He includes helpful advice about how to talk with children about the divorce. And he narrows and refines his recommendations depending upon whether parents divorce during that stage or divorced when their children were younger.
The final chapter of the book is a return to one of the central themes of Emery’s work – that parents must embrace the grief and loss of divorce and then find a way to compartmentalize their burden. At the same time, he urges parents to look forward and “think now about what you will wish you did” years from now. As difficult as it may seem, “[y]ou can start working toward a new long-term now. You can start making deposits into your divorced family’s savings account with the currency of good parenting and goodwill.”