19th Jul 2013

Ten tips for dealing with the children’s voice in divorce and separation

Children’s opinions are valuable when their parents are getting a divorce or separating

  1. Place any comments made by children in context of their age and their emotional state.
  2. A parent can often over-state a child’s intellect or sensitivity to bolster a comment made by them that supports the point of view being proposed by that parent.  “He’s only two, but he’s a very sensitive two year old.  He understands things.” Try to resist this.
  3. Be aware that children’s wishes and concerns might differ, or be stressed differently, depending on which parent or other family member or friend the child is making the comments to.
  4. Great care needs to be taken by parents when asking children to express an opinion.  Doing so might make them feel that they have to `betray’ one parent in order to give a favourable response to the parent asking the questions.  Alternatively you can make them feel that the burden of decision making has fallen upon their shoulders.
  5. Do not drill the children for information about the other parent, what they do or for updates on any new relationships they might have.
  6. Do listen when and if your children want to discuss matters spontaneously but resist the temptation to seize what they say as proof of the other parent’s shortcomings.
  7. If the children express anxiety or disappointment then acknowledge that.  It is important that children are allowed to have their emotions.  Do not try to stifle them and, instead, aim to find ways to discuss the issues with the other parent.  Using an intermediary such as a qualified mediator can help separating parents to find ways to work together in the children’s best interests and to continue to provide a level of united emotional support at this difficult time.  If you have any questions about family mediation then call us now on 020 7420 5000.
  8. Consider whether your children use open social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube or Facebook.  If so, see if any concerns and frustrations are being expressed there. Resist the temptation, however, to try hacking passwords or ‘bugging’ emails just as you would try to resist reading a child’s written diary.  Crossing these boundaries will greatly undermine trust.
  9. If you and your partner want the children’s voice to be heard, or if your children are saying that they want their opinions to be taken into account, then speak to one of our mediators about direct child consultation or, again, call us on 020 7420 5000 for more information.
  10. Never give in to the temptation to criticise or blame the other parent in front of the children.