Children Don’t Count Overnights, Parents Do


Children Don’t Count Overnights, Parents Do

Recently I was honored to be interviewed by Mandy Walker on her talk show “Conversations About Divorce.”   At one point, Ms. Walker asked what practical advice I would offer to a parent going through a divorce who was in the early stages of the process.  My response was simple and direct:  “Put the children first.”

So often, driven by emotions or personal needs, parents entering the process of divorce start fighting for their children, but they aren’t always fighting for what is best for their children.   These parents focus on what’s fair, what the parent wants and needs, or what isn’t fair.  They approach the process looking at percentages of time with their children, as if being with their children a certain percentage of time is what successful parenting requires.  They count the overnights, striving to get the exact number they seek for the percentages to work out as they desire.

They fail to put the children first.

Children don’t count overnights.  They look to their parent for love, support, attention and stability.  They look for this 100% of the time from each parent when with that parent.  Children look for an emotional attachment that they know can be counted on in the most uncertain of times.   They don’t look for this 30% of the time if one parent only has 30% of the overnights.  Children want to know that everything will be okay, and that the parent will put them first – all the time.

Time, alone, does not a successful parent make.  What the parent does with the children during their time is the key.  Is the parent actively involved in the children’s lives, emotionally supportive of the children, focused on the children’s interests?   Is the parent putting the child first, in all areas?  If so, no matter how much, or little, time the parent has with the children, there will be a strong healthy relationship.  In contrast, whatever time a dysfunctional parent has with the children, it can harm the relationship, and the child’s emotional well-being.

If a parent knows in his or her heart that the child spending more time with the other parent is overall best for the child, then by all means, that parent should agree to a parenting schedule that accomplishes exactly that.  If a parent thinks it isn’t fair to not have a certain percentage of time with his or her children, but sees that what matters is what the children need, then that parent should do what the children need.  If the child begins failing as the result of a parenting plan, the parents should admit it, focus on what the child needs, and make changes to assist the child in being as successful as possible despite the break up the parents’ relationship.

Children do need a relationship with both parents, and the quality of that relationship is not based upon time.   Rather, the quality is based upon whether there is healthy, safe, child-focused parenting offered regardless of time.  Children don’t count overnights.  Parents shouldn’t either.  Put the children first.  They are worth it.



To hear the entire interview of Ms. Storey, please follow this link:

Leave a Reply