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Divorce law blog

Listening to your children ..... #children first

24/11/2015   By: Alison Bull

Listening to your children ……#children first

Most parents who separate are worried about how their children will cope. You may feel very guilty that you haven’t been able to stop your relationship breaking up. Whatever the reason for the break up, and even though in the long-term it maybe the right thing for the family, its very likely that your children will not want it to happen.

Separation is tough for you, and its tough for your children. If you handle it well though, they will be OK. However, if there is a lot of conflict between you parents, there is evidence that this is damaging for children in terms of their short-term and longer term wellbeing. Children who have this experience are more likely to have health problems, engage in risky behaviours including drug and alcohol abuse, and do less well at school.

Its important that your children have the opportunity to talk about what they are going through, which may be with someone other than one of you parents. They are likely to feel caught in the middle, and be anxious to please both of you. Often they want to be able to speak to the professional/s who are helping you to sort out the mess what they think about what should happen to them.

The government has recently commissioned a group to look at how “the Voice of the Child” can be heard in the family justice system, which has made various recommendations (see here).

For the majority of children whose parents do not go to court to sort out the arrangements for them, there are lots of options for them to have a voice, and to be supported. There may be a family friend who can act as a sounding board, or a school nurse or counsellor, or a counsellor or child psychologist consulted privately.

If you are sorting out the arrangements in mediation, then if your mediator is qualified to do so, they can meet with your children. If they don’t offer that service, then one of their colleagues may be able to do so. This is not about delegating responsibility for making decisions to your children, since that is a parental responsibility, no matter how old they are. Rather its about them having a say in the arrangements, about what is most important to them, with someone who is not going to take sides.

For more information about children being involved in mediation please read this blog article or contact one of our experts. We have useful information on our children pages about how to support your children if you are going through a separation. There are also some useful resources on the Resolution website and www.theparentingconnection.org.uk.

Alison Bull

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