It’s caused a great deal of controversy, but Penelope Leach’s view that overnight stays for separated fathers with children under five may not always be right for the child is one we agree with, and we say so on the JVS show.
Contact is a highly emotive debate amongst many separating couples, and some forget that what is right for the child is not always what a parent wants in terms of overnight stays. Whilst there are plenty of couples who do take the view that small children should experience overnight contact when they’re ready, and we know fathers (and mothers) who have waited, and have seen no damage to their relationship with their child (all in fact, would say waiting bolstered it), there are those who feel they are entitled to assert what they perceive to be ‘ their right to contact’.
Researching Reform has always been about the voice of the child. We believe strongly that listening to children not only benefits them in the long run but helps us understand them better and gives us the chance to nurture happy, healthy individuals. This is not a gender issue, nor is it about parents’ battles. Too often we see angry or disgruntled parents use overnight contact as a way to hurt the other parent. Many see a lack of overnight stays as a loss of power over their child. This issue is about none of those things.
We discuss the topic with a member of Families Need Fathers on the JVS show, and as is often the case, the representative confused contact in general, with the narrow issue of overnight stays. An emotive subject, which people find hard to focus on – especially those who have an ax to grind, those who misunderstand children and those whose hurt clouds their common sense.
As we argue on the show, this is all about common sense. Where a child is comfortable with overnight stays, we see no problem. But where a child demonstrates an obvious discomfort, we agree with Penelope – overnight contact will do more harm than good, and can damage the enforcing parent’s relationship with that child, and not just the child in question.
Before you judge our views, listen to the show. You may be surprised. Then again, you may not.