Child specialists are underutilized in collaborative cases because teams and clients don’t understand the benefits of engaging a developmental professional to evaluate the children and give them a voice in the divorce process. Here are some tips to help your team and clients benefit from working with an experienced child specialist.
Discuss the Benefits of a Child Specialist at the Beginning of a Case
Experienced collaborative professionals know that children benefit from having their own “voice” in the collaborative divorce process. Older children want to express their concerns and needs directly and younger children feel more secure when they can meet with a supportive developmental specialist. A child specialist can act as the spokesperson for the children and offer neutral support and clarifications of the divorce process to them. Very young children can be engaged in the divorce process through observations and home visits by the child specialist.
Making Informed Choices about the Children
A child specialist can gather complex information about the children and help the parents and team make informed choices about the best parenting plan to meet the children’s needs. Moreover, the child specialist acts as a consult to the team concerning parent/child relations and bring a developmental prospective into the divorce process to make the team and parents aware of the children’s future needs as they mature.
Engaging a Child Specialist
Its best to bring a child specialist into the collaborative process at the beginning of a case so that questions and issues about the status of the children and the future parenting plan are smoothly integrated into the collaborative process.
Be Specific about Children’s Needs
A child specialist can collect and organize specific information about what the children need during the divorce process and suggest the best way to deal with these needs. The child specialist can also handle the stressed parents’ tendency to oversimplify feelings about their children and help them avoid thinking “everything will be fine” or “the children will be damaged for life by our divorce.” Neither extreme is accurate or helpful in dealing with the children’s future and developing an effective parenting plan.
Considering Future Developmental Needs of Children
Child specialists can help parents develop a flexible parenting plan that meets both the current and future developmental needs of the children. Many parents are so overwhelmed by the divorce process that they want to rush through and don’t spend enough time thinking about how to accommodate the future developmental needs of their children in two households. A child specialist can gently educate the parents about their children’s future needs and how to develop a parenting plan that will adjust as the children mature.
For all these reasons, engaging a child specialist at the beginning of any collaborative case that involves children can yield real benefits for both the parents and the children.