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Top Talker:
Kids Damaged By Sleepovers With Dad?

One of Britain’s leading parenting experts, psychologist Penelope Leach, has angered more than a few people with her claims that young children of separated or divorced couples shouldn’t be allowed to stay all night with their fathers.

Leach’s general rule is that children under the age of 4 should stay with their mothers and that by “sharing” young children, parents are putting their rights above those of their kids. According to Leach, overnight visits with Dad is not in the best interest of the child. She says that there is “undisputed evidence” that separating children from their mothers reduces brain development.

Fathers’ rights groups are understandably upset. The New Fathers4Justice direct action group said the advice “sounds like absolute poison and potentially terribly damaging to children’s development,” and “overnight stays with fathers from as early an age as possible are crucial if children are to form strong attachments with both parents.”

Ian Maxwell, of Families Need Fathers, agreed that the advice went against “common sense” and that “the bond between fathers and children is just as important.” He also said, “The idea [of] maternal bonds being the strongest goes back to classic attachment theory, and I think we’ve moved on quite considerably since then – and also the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives has also developed quite considerably.”

Leach’s arguments and more can be found in her new book, Family Breakdown. The book is written “for separating mothers and fathers, for their extended families and prospective new partners, and for the professionals who support and advise them. Above all, this book is written to help those grownups do better by children.”

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I’m not in this boat, so it’s hard for me to say if Leach is right or wrong—although, intuitively, it seems counterproductive to deny fathers as much time as possible with their children. Of course, it’s better for kids to live in a two-parent household, but that will never be the case for all kids for a variety of reasons.

It seems to me that in the case of separated parents, it’s better for young children to spend time with fathers because it allows them to bond with their children, and that may include sleepovers. The back-and-forth may not be ideal, but when you’re not in the ideal situation, you have to go with the next best thing. Maybe some children shouldn’t have overnight visits with dad, but that’s up to the parents to decide and in some cases, the court system.

It must be incredibly difficult to go through divorce when children are involved. Whether married or not, it’s always best for kids to have a mother and father who are committed to co-parenting and figuring out what works for the family. If that means overnight visits with dad, then so be it. It isn’t “only fair” to the father; it’s fair to kids to have a good relationship with him.

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What do you think about Leach’s comments? Should parents wait until kids are older for sleepovers with dad? Sound off below.