Billy’s parents are divorcing. Billy is 7 years old and he is worried that he will never see his father again. Harper’s parents are divorcing. She is 19 years old and Harper is worried that her parents will no longer be able to pay for her college. Jim’s parents are divorcing. Jim is 10 years old. Jim is worried that he will be separated from his dog half the time. Madelyn’s parents are divorcing. She is 13 years old. Madelyn is worried that they will have to move, and she will lose all of her friends in her neighborhood. Christopher is 15 years old and his parents are divorcing. Christopher is anxious because his Mom is crying a lot and is telling him all about his father’s affairs. Christopher does not want to be in the middle of the divorce.
None of these children have voiced these concerns to their parents. No one has asked these children their concerns. All of their parents would be interested in these concerns, but they are not at their best. Some of the parents are still reeling from their own worries and concerns associated with the divorce. Some of them think that it is best to not discuss anything about the divorce as a way of protecting the children.
There is a constructive way to help these children in the divorce to have a voice and to educate these children on the process and the options and possible ways to meet their concerns without over empowering them. In Collaborative Divorce cases we can have a child specialist (mental health professional with collaborative training) included on the team. The child specialist can meet with the children, even adult children, and help them become educated about how divorce works, how not to triangulate the family, how to have their worries addressed. The child specialist can report back to the parents in a constructive way to help the parents understand the concerns of the children.
We need to protect the children (particularly during divorce) and that includes allowing them to have a voice.