How often do our clients come into our offices and tell us “all I want is what is best for my children”, and then we sadly observe their narrative or behaviour to be anything but child focussed.

Fortunately, there are parents who we see who are able to speak with each other about their children in a child focussed way and are able to go on to develop a parenting plan that is optimum for their children. For these parents, a Child Specialist meeting with their children and providing feedback and recommendations about future arrangements can be reassuring that they are on the right track, that their children are coping with the changes while the children benefit from feeling heard and being offered the opportunity to speak about their experience, their thoughts and fears about the future. At this point, if the Child Specialist identifies a concern in relation to one of the children the parents can be assisted to think about how they can address the concern or a referral can be made to help the child.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our clients were like those above? How often do we become involved with a family who are still living under one roof where the parents believe that the children are not even aware that things are about to change dramatically for them. Often at this stage parent’s emotions are heightened and each parent is likely to be at a different stage of the separation process. It is also common for them to have differing opinions about how the children are coping with the family dynamics, and there is certainly no agreement about arrangements or what will best help their family move forward.

It is in such cases where the Collaboration process can be particularly useful for children as it embraces the use of a Child Specialist in a collaborative and empathic rather than forensic manner. Having had extensive experience in the Court system as well as in Collaborative practice I see this distinction as crucial.

Having interviewed countless children over three decades I have found it most unusual that they are indeed as naïve as parents often suggest. Indeed, children have more commonly astounded me with their insight and understanding about their parents and the dynamics in their home. Children also commonly love both parents equally and yearn for the love and care of both parents equally. However this does not necessarily equate to wanting to spend equal time with each or that there aren’t things they would like to be different, and herein often lies some of many issues that will need to be addressed with the parents.

For myself, working as a Child Specialist with a Family Consultant with similar training and background has been particularly rewarding. Having a second person in the room who can help with the delicate balance of remaining in an empathic, collaborative space while delivering at times difficult feedback to a client who is struggling to cope in a highly sensitised time, has been particularly rewarding and has resulted in many positive outcomes for the children involved.

By Ilana Katz. Psychologist, Collaborative Practitioner