Children under the age of two ‘ideally’ should not be sent on sleepovers with the non-primary carer in custody arrangements because it disrupts their mental health, new guidelines issued by the Australian Institute for Infant Mental Health Incorporated state.
But Nichola Coombs, president of the Victoria Branch which led the development of the guidelines, says the issue isn’t quite so black and white. “We are just trying to help separated parents provide the best care for their babies,” she said. “We felt it was our duty to give the infants in custody a voice in these difficult circumstances.”
The guidelines are based on research which says children under the age of four should ideally not be disturbed in their routines, particularly when they are at their most vulnerable around bedtime. “We don’t talk about mothers or fathers. This isn’t about gender bias, we just recognise the relationship the child has with the primary career whether they are a mother or father. Kids have special needs and they need to be recognised. These are guidelines, they aren’t law. We just want parents to use common sense,” said Nichola.