Children are often confused about divorce yet may be least able to understand or express their feelings. For them it can seem like their world is being turned upside down. A goal of Collaborative Practice is to assure that children are a priority, not a casualty.
In more traditional forms of divorce, a child’s voice usually is heard only through the filter of her parents, who themselves may feel disoriented by the legal process. Children often sense that their parents are distressed, and choose not to contribute to their problems by sharing their own fears or questions. This can result in children feeling that there is no secure place for their own story or for their own unique perspective. The child’s frustration can then appear in the form of academic problems at school or behavioral problems with peers or at home with the family. Children who were once fully engaged will sometimes appear lost and preoccupied.
The Collaborative Child Specialist provides a safe forum for the children to communicate their thoughts and needs. The Child Specialist is skilled in understanding and communicating with children at various developmental stages. For example, very young children may be observed at home or with caregivers. A school aged child may meet with the specialist at their office where their thoughts and feelings can be expressed using play or other non-verbal techniques. Adolescents can be engaged in a meaningful conversation about their concerns and hopes.
The result of these efforts to engage the children becomes apparent when the Child Specialist meets with you and your collaborative team. In that setting the children’s feelings, concerns and hopes will be conveyed to you and to the team in a fair and unbiased manner. Equally important, the child specialist may discuss his or her observations and impressions about how the children are adapting. This information often proves to be invaluable – sometimes reassuring, and sometimes surprising – for the parents, as they consider decisions affecting their children’s lives. The Child Specialist remains available as a valuable resource throughout the Collaborative process to answer questions about the developmental, emotional and relational needs of children.