Bob Emery is a psychologist, researcher, professor, and mediator who has lived and breathed divorce for decades. In Two Homes, One Childhood, he speaks to every divorced parent’s deepest fears (“Is your child’s challenging behavior part of normal development or a sign of something deeper, perhaps owing to the upheaval of your divorce?”) and hopes (“Children shouldn’t be defined by divorce…. And you can make sure that doesn’t happen.”). The insights gained from his professional roles are deepened by personal experience. (He recently grabbed drinks with his ex-wife to celebrate the arrival of their grandchild.) He knows firsthand how difficult it is to construct a parenting plan that “grows and changes along with the developing needs of children”—and how essential.
Emery’s tone is clear and steady with no beautiful turns of phrase but nothing to trip the reader up either. My one complaint in terms of style is the repetition, both on the sentence level and between chapters geared to different ages. Emery says, “I do this for a few reasons. I know some readers will skip around, so I raise a few key issues repeatedly so no one will miss them. I also repeat myself some, because, well, some things bear repeating.” Fair enough, but it can still grate for a cover-to-cover reader.
Two Homes nonetheless adds substantial value by synthesizing nuanced research and offering both big picture recommendations and tips and tricks to get there. “Here is what your children need,” Emery summarizes: “a good relationship with at least one authoritative parent, that is, a parent who is both loving and firm with discipline” and “low levels of conflict between parents.” A second high-quality parental relationship is ideal, but not as important as not “living in the middle of a war zone between two parents.” When it comes to the nitty gritty, Emery is blunt: Be the adult. Shield the kids. Do your job.
With the long lens that comes with age and an academic background, Emery reminds readers that marriage is what demographers call “an incomplete institution,” one that is still evolving. So too are best practices for raising kids together outside of marriage. We know some do’s. We know some don’t’s. Emery folds them together to establish a psychological compass to help us navigate the gray areas.