If you think divorce is rough on you (and it most certainly is a difficult experience), imagine coping with divorce when you are a child who lacks the emotional maturity and understanding to grasp what it happening and who is powerless to do anything about it.
Child specialists are an invaluable resource during your divorce. Sadly, child specialists are an unrecognized resource not used as effectively as they could be as part of the Collaborative Divorce process.
Here are four ways you can benefit from working with a trained Child Specialist during your Collaborative Divorce.
1. Your children have a “voice” in the divorce process
Experienced Collaborative professionals agree that children benefit from having their own “voice” in the process. Older children appreciate being able to express their concerns and needs. The Child Specialist is the conduit for the child’s participation in the process. These meetings offer children of any age a neutral supportive person to help explain the process to them and offer needed perspective and coping skills. Even very young children who cannot directly communicate their questions and needs can be brought into the process through office observations or home visits.
Child Specialists play a similar role in their field as your financial neutral. They will help gather and organize complicated information to help parents make well-informed choices about parenting plans, living arrangements, and even ongoing professional and emotional support for your children.
Child Specialists act as a consultant to the Collaborative Divorce team about special issues your family may experience, even if your Child Specialist never meets directly with your children. It is helpful to bring a professional trained and experienced in the typical child development process to offer perspective to the conversation.
2. You can come to agreement regarding your children more quickly.
Ideally, a Child Specialist is added to your Collaborative Divorce team at the beginning of the Collaborative process, and is present at your first meeting where questions about the current and future status of your children are explored and integrated into your discussions and decisions. Your children can participate to the extent it is helpful for them and provide input that helps you better explore options and make decisions about your transitioning family.
3. You can better identify and meet your child’s needs.
Child Specialists help parents understand and hone in on their child’s needs without guessing games, helping parents process their hopes and concerns for their children. Child Specialists will guide parents and the Collaborative Divorce team through a sophisticated overview of risk and protective factors. When parents who are upset and emotionally fragile during a divorce fear for their children’s well-being and their connection with the children, they often oversimplify or overgeneralize catastrophic outcomes. Neither “the kids will be fine” nor “they will be ruined for life” is accurate or helpful.
4. You can look toward a healthy future and reduce your child’s fears.
Child Specialists help parents focus on your child’s future developmental needs, and how the right parenting plan will adapt to those individual needs to produce the best outcomes. While it might be tempting to avoid feeling overwhelmed by decisions about parenting after divorce and simply go with a cookie-cutter approach to parenting to just “get it over with,” it won’t produce the best results. One size does not fit all.