There are situations where you should consider bringing in a child specialist during a collaborative case. These include when parents don’t agree about what’s in their children’s best interest, when parents have trouble developing a parenting plan, when there is concern about how the kids are coping with the divorce, when there is a special needs child in the family, when children don’t want to see one parent, and when there are older children in the family who may have strong feelings about where they want to live.
Parents Don’t Agree About Their Children’s Best Interest.
It’s fairly typical for parents to have different parenting styles. One may be strict and the other lenient about discipline. There is no perfect parenting style. During a divorce, one parent may express concern about the other’s parenting style and a child specialist can help them understand the effects of divorce on their children’s needs. Although the child specialist will not make specific recommendations about how to parent the children, he or she can help parents appreciate the risks and benefits of various parenting strategies so they can make informed decisions about what’s best for the children.
Parents Can’t Agree About a Parenting Plan.
Often, even in collaborative divorces, parents have strong disagreements about how to share custody of their children after the divorce if final. A child specialist can help parents develop an effective parenting plan by meeting with the children and then discussing with the parents the specific needs, stress tolerances, hopes, and wishes of their children. The child specialist and the collaborative team can discuss various custody plans and clarify the risks and benefits of different transition plans on the children. Together, the team and parents can work out a parenting plan that meets the needs of the children, works with the parent’s schedules, and is consistent with the wishes and abilities of the children.
Parents Express Concerns About the Children.
Often children show signs of distress during a divorce or become quiet and withdrawn around their parents. These children will often feel more open and expressive with a neutral child specialist who won’t pressure them to take sides in a struggle between the parents for the children’s affection. The child specialist can assess how well the children are coping with the divorce and recommend counseling for them if needed. Moreover, the child specialist can reassure the parents that their children will come out of the divorce intact.
If a Child has Special Needs.
Children with special needs, such as autism, chronic illness, or a learning disorder, generally benefit from being seen by a child specialist. The child specialist should have experience dealing with divorce and special needs children. He or she can help the parents understand the optimal parenting plan to meet the unique needs of their child. This may involve limiting changes in the child’s life during and after the divorce because these children are not as flexible or resilient as other children. The child specialist can help the parents understand how to support and nurture their special child.
When Children Reject One Parent.
Sometimes children can be drawn into loyalty conflicts between their parents and they may feel a need to choose between them. Perhaps one parent is seen as more fragile and in need of extra support or one parent is seen as safer and the children feel more comfortable with him or her. Perhaps one parent is seen as “bad” by one or more children and they try to avoid him or her. A child specialist can help divorcing parents appreciate what is happening and how their behavior is harming their children. The child specialist can develop a plan to heal the rift between the parents and children or refer the children to a therapist for counseling to deal with the problem.
No matter what the issue or the ages and developmental levels of the children during a divorce, they will have thoughts and concerns about what is happening to the family. They may not feel safe sharing these feelings with their parents because of potential conflicts and loyalties. The children may feel the divorce is their fault of they may think they have to choose one parent and reject the other. Having a caring neutral adult who can listen and share their concerns can be a relief. Frequently older children have strong feelings about where they want to live, but no one asks them unless a child specialist is engaged. It’s important to assure the parents that a child specialist will interview the children and let them know that although they have a voice in the process, the parents will make the final decisions and the children are not responsible for what happens.