February 25, 2014

The Voice of The Child: The Most Important Voice of All

Children Walking on TrailIn my meetings with kids, I ask them to share perspectives on family, including hopes and wishes for how family might work best when parents are living in separate homes. I recently had the privilege to meet with four amazing young women; siblings whose parents are getting unmarried in a Collaborative Team Process.

I continually learn from kids with whom I work as a neutral child specialist. Each of these girls made thoughtful observations for me to share with their parents, so I asked them and their parents if I could write a blog post to share these ideas with others. Because they are thoughtful, empathetic and generous people, they agreed, and have my deep gratitude and appreciation.

Below are words of wisdom from Lauren, Kelly, Emily and Grace. Though focusing on one quote per girl, I want to stress that each of them had many wonderful insights about all the areas mentioned.

Lauren on Holiday and Birthday Celebrations

“I want one graduation party, not two. This is about me, not my parents. And I want them both to come and to get along.”

Lauren’s words represent the viewpoint of many kids, and are a powerful reminder that children of all ages have strong feelings about family celebrations. Lauren also talked about preserving family traditions on both sides for holidays, like Christmas. Tuning in to kids’ perspectives can help parents figure out how to preserve important traditions while adding new ones, providing grounding and clarity for all family members.

Kelly on Co-parent Cooperation

“I want my parents to remember they’re both always my parents no matter which house I am at.”

Kelly’s words articulate the heart of the positive and profound shift in family law away from attaching custody labels toward co-parenting and creating parenting plans based on the best interests of kids. Kids dislike the feeling of going from “Mom Island” to “Dad Island,” and feel safer if parents respect and honor their relationships with both parents.  Effective co-parent communication is a centerpiece of parenting and relationship plans in Collaborative Team Practice.

Emily on Transitions between Homes

“I hope my parents will have a one to two hour window for me to go from one house to the other, so it’s do-able if I am in the middle of something or with a friend.”

One of the most challenging aspects of a divorce for kids is transitioning between homes. It is vital that parents work together to make transitions as smooth, cordial and stress-free as possible. Emily’s words are an important reminder to regularly check in and listen to kids about what is working well and not so well in transitions. Parents need patience and empathy: kids have lives too!

Grace on Family Transformation

“I want us to be a together and apart family. We’re still a family, but we’re just split.” 

Grace absolutely nailed why I do the work I do as a neutral child specialist. What she said is both insightful and core to helping kids develop resilience. It is so important that all family members move forward with the deep understanding that getting unmarried does not end a family with children, but transforms it.

Thank you Lauren, Kelly, Emily and Grace. We will keep listening!

Deborah ClemmensenABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Clemmensen
Licensed Psychologist

Deborah Clemmensen, M.Eq., Licensed Psychologist was a child and family clinician for many years before her discovery of Collaborative Team Practice in 2000 motivated the transformation of her professional role from therapist to Neutral Child Specialist. This work---hearing the voices of every family member during a divorce or break up, keeping children at the center and out of the middle, and assisting parents in the creation of developmentally responsive parenting plans---is both a passion and a privilege. Find out more about Deborah's work at www.deborahclemmensen.com

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