The Voice of Your Child in Divorce
Just like you, your children struggle with your divorce. As a divorcing parent, it is often difficult to know how to manage the needs of yourself and those of your children. However it is crucial that you do. Contrary to popular belief, children do like to be involved in the divorce process, in that they like to know what is going on. It’s really important that you involve the children in your divorce insofar as letting them know what’s happening. Concerns that children have include:
- where they will go to school,
- when will they see their other parent
- where they will live, whether they will still see their friends,
- whether they will be able to see their grandparents and
- whether they are still still loved by both parents.
Children of different ages, have different needs however. Even the youngest of children can be spoken to in an age-appropriate manner. Consider speaking to your children all together in a way that that even the youngest child can understand. It may be then be that you have further discussions with the older children who may have more questions. To exclude younger children from family discussions completely can cause worry and upset. Ensuring that your children know that they are loved is of crucial importance, furthermore, letting them know where they will be living and when they’re going to see the non-resident parent will help give them security and stability. A great book for younger children is It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce (Lansky, Vicki), this book helps children recognise that it is okay to have too homes and that even though mummy and daddy live apart, they still love their children.
The most common comment that children give as feedback for parents is that they wish they would stop arguing
Child-focused mediation can help you and your former partner make decisions that are right for your children. Child-focused mediation will help you particularly at the beginning of your separation negotiate those tricky decisions about how to tell the children that you are separating, what you will tell them and to discuss arrangement like where the children will live, and arrangements for seeing the non-resident parent. You may also consider the voice of your child in divorce through child inclusive mediation. The Government are particularly keen on promoting the voice of the child in mediation and is encouraging mediation services to increase the role the voice of the child in their services. This is because research has shown that over half of children feel that they are ignored in the mediation process and often not asked by the parents what they would like to happen. This often leaves children angry, frustrated and confused.
How talking to children works in mediation
Child inclusive mediation allows the children to voice their views, wishes and feelings without placing any burden of decision-making upon them. This is beneficial in the number of ways for both parents and child. As the parent, you get to hear what your child thinks and feels yet you remain in control of all the decisions. Whether your child will speak with a mediator isn’t a straight forward matter of yes or no;
- Firstly, both parents must be engaged in the mediation process and both parents must give consent for the children to be invited to meet with the mediator.
- Your mediator will decide whether in all the circumstances, they think it’s appropriate that your child is spoken to. This is as much to do with you as parents as it is the child’s ability to cope with the process.
- If the mediator does not feel it is appropriate (for whatever reason), your child will not be spoken to.
- If the mediator and the parents agree, then, and only then will the mediator (who is specially trained to talk to children) contact your child and ask if they would like to see a mediator and talk with them. If the child refuses, that is the end of the matter.
- If the child does wish to meet the mediator, they will be seen and chatted to in an age appropriate way. The child is reassured that their meeting is confidential and that (subject to normal safeguarding issues), what they say to the mediator won’t be shared with their parents unless the child agrees. If the child doesn’t agree for the mediator to share with their parents, the mediator cannot and will not share their discussions.
What are the benefits of talking to children in mediation?
Mediation is often the first and only opportunities that children feel able to honestly and openly express their feelings about their parents separation. However both parents must accept that there may be no feedback at the end of the meeting. However, feedback that does come often results in a change of focus for the parents particularly for those who struggled to have child focused discussions during mediation process. It encourages parents to work together and reduces blame. The most common comment that children give as feedback for parents is that they wish they would stop arguing.
How else can you support your children?
It’s also important that you tell your children’s school about your separation and divorce this is so that your children’s teachers can watch out for a change in their behaviour. Sometimes children become withdrawn and quiet and others begin acting out; both of these are quite common in divorce scenarios and the more information that your children’s teaching school has about what’s going on at home the better able your child’s teacher is able to support your children. Likewise, if your children attend clubs, sporting activities or music lessons, let the adults involved know that your child may be struggling.
The voice of your children is incredibly important in your separation and divorce and it is important that you seek support in order to help then if you need to. There is no shame and no blame in struggling at this time. It is important that you look after yourself just as much as your children and using a divorce coach can help you with this and help you give help you with ideas about how to support your children.
I’m Emma The Divorce Alchemist. Featured in Marie Claire Magazine and a writer for the Huffington post, I help ladies who leave make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce so that they can move on with ease.