How a child specialist can make sure the voice of your child is heard during the divorce process

Graeme Clark | March 16, 2016

photo of a child specialist working with a young girl

Parents generally worry about the impact of divorce on their children. Serious harm can happen for kids during separation and the aftermath if moms and dads get sidetracked by strong negative emotions and conflicts and lose perspective on what’s important for their youngsters during this difficult time.

In a Collaborative Divorce, parents and their lawyers often call up a Neutral Child Specialist to bring the voice of the child into the process, and to help them make child-sensitive decisions for their kids.

The Child Specialist is a psychologist with specialized knowledge about children and divorce, family relationships, communication and parenting. Parents find that the Child Specialist understands the difficulties of going through separation and divorce, and is also familiar with the collaborative process used by their lawyers.

When parents separate, children are forced into numerous changes over which they have no choice—after all, parents get divorced, but kids don’t divorce their parents. Ideally, children maintain strong connections with their mom and dad and are provided with as much support, stability and consistency as possible under the circumstances.

When you call up a Child Specialist, his or her job is to listen…to listen first to each parent’s priorities, interests, and concerns about your children, about the divorce and about parenting, and second, to listen directly to your children (providing they are old enough), to listen for how they are feeling, thinking and adapting. If you call up the Child Specialist early enough, you may receive help on how to tell the children about the divorce and upcoming changes. The Child Specialist acts as a neutral to each of you as parents and represents primarily the voices and needs of your children.

After collecting this information, your Child Specialist combines it with knowledge of the needs, ages and stages of children and the learning curve that parents face as they pass through the stages of divorce. He or she facilitates a discussion between you and the other parent, perhaps with your lawyers and/or coaches present, to give feedback and to help explore various options which address the needs of your children. You will probably have ideas about what will work or not work for your kids given your circumstances and lifestyle, and you may develop your own parenting plan, using information from the Child Specialist. You may also have your Child Specialist help you to create a workable, age-appropriate plan for co-parenting, and to put the details into practice.

Your Child Specialist works mostly with you, but through the process your children get a chance to share feelings, voice their concerns and ask questions regarding the divorce, from a supportive, neutral person. If your children have unique needs, particular worries or behavioural difficulties, your Child Specialist will connect you with resources or other professionals for post-divorce support and guidance. You may continue to consult with your specialist after the divorce is finalized, providing you write these arrangements into your final agreement with the assistance of your lawyers.

Many parents choose a Collaborative Divorce with the idea of protecting their children through the upheaval, and these parents often find that calling on a Child Specialist has helped them in emotional and practical ways, and also given them reassurance that they are doing their best for the children they love.

By Dr. Graeme Clark, Ph.D.

Filed under: Children and divorce

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