Two kinds of “nesting” for kids of divorce



“Nesting” is a term often used by family courts, lawyers, and divorcing parents. It means parents continue to share a residence after divorce for the sake of their children. The parents stay at the family home with the children when it is their scheduled visitation time.

The other parent stays someplace else during that time. The thought behind doing this is that staying in the family home makes the transition from the intact family to the divorced family easier on children. All I can say about this idea is the verdict is still out on whether this actually makes it easier on children. It does appear to work for some people.

It is good for church leaders to understand this legal concept of nesting some courts and family mediation groups are suggesting.

There is another kind of nesting that kids do. Children’s pastors and children’s leaders need to be aware of this kind of nesting tool and the important role it plays in these children’s lives.

Types of nesting children do themselves

Many times, children of divorce become unusually attached to their things. This is especially true if both parents have become emotionally distant or deeply disappointed their children. Keep in mind this is children’s perception of how things are. Most people, including children’s parents, are not aware of this type of nesting.

You may find children bringing things to church classes that will not make any sense to you.

  • A quarter: For instance, an eight- or nine-year-old boy brings what appears to be a regular-looking quarter. However, should anyone even touch that quarter, mayhem breaks out. You might be at a loss as to how that simple, ordinary-looking quarter could lead to such chaos. What you may not realize is that quarter might have been the last thing the child remembers his dad giving him before he left.
  • An old button: Perhaps it is an old button the child found on the floor the day his mom walked out.
  • A piece of clothing: Children sometimes cling to a piece of clothing their parents used to wear. One time, I had a little girl bring her mom’s scrubs with her. She only brought the top, but she kept it in a bag and would not let that bag out of her sight. She did this for months.
  • Old toys: These might be toys that belonged to the parent when he was a child.
  • Baby toys, blankies, etc: Some children revert to baby toys or blankies they used to have when they were younger. These remind children of happier times, so they may cling to the items years after they have outgrown them.

The nest

Children take these things, these treasures, this stuff, and put it around them. A lot like birds, these children create “nests.” The child sits right in the middle of the nest surrounded by his entire collection of things. Some perceive this as children trying to create nests of things they hope will keep their past alive and their memories active. (Adult children of divorce have also been known to do this.)

Some children want to take their things with them everywhere they go, even to church classes. You can alleviate children’s stress by helping them keep their treasures safe.

The real treasure to surround them

When children have healed and progressed in accepting the divorce, tell them the story found in the sixth chapter of Matthew. Help them understand that while they needed earthly treasure for a while, the real treasure is finding a relationship with Jesus Christ. Explain to them it is okay to save their keepsakes, but at some point, it will be better to put them in a special place or box at home.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19–21)


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on March 6, 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Two kinds of “nesting” for kids of divorce

  1. Thank you for sharing this article and about the legal concept of nesting. I know of couples that do this, actually with both staying in the home after the divorce, often for financial reasons, but I didn’t know there was a legal term for it. And being sensitive to the child’s form of nesting too.

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