Listening To Your Children's Views
Parents can often find it difficult to talk with their children about separation, or to listen to their children’s views about changes in the family. When children and young people don’t know what is happening, they can sometimes think that the separation or changes are their fault, or they might worry that the separation will change how their parent feels about them.
During and after separation, it is important to understand what your children are thinking or feeling about family changes. This understanding can help you think about the arrangements for your children and make decisions that consider their needs and views.
In order to understand what your children are thinking or feeling, listen carefully. This might seem simple but it can actually be one of the hardest things to do, particularly when life is busy or you are struggling with your own emotions.
• Set aside time to listen to your children. If you have more than one child try to make time to listen to them separately – they may have very different views.
• Try to give your children your full attention when you are listening, it’s easy to get distracted!
• Try to listen to your children without interrupting, give them time to speak.
• Ask questions to confirm that you understand what your children have said.
• Support their feelings by repeating back what you heard your children say, even if you don’t agree with them.
• Your children’s feelings about the separation may be different from your own, so try not to let your own feelings influence them.
Listening To Children and Young People's Views Using Other Dispute Resolution Processes
Parents can be supported to make decisions about arrangements for their children using other dispute resolution processes. These include: getting help from Solicitors/Family Lawyers, Collaborative Lawyers, Family Law Arbitrators, the Court Process, or a combination of these. All processes encourage parents to put the welfare of their child first and to consider their views.
There are a number of options for the children’s views to be taken into account within the court process that may be worth
exploring with a mediator or your Solicitor. For example, children can fill in a form (F9 Form) to tell the Sheriff/Judge about their views; children can be represented by their own Solicitor; Sheriffs sometimes ask to speak directly to children; the Sheriff can ask for a child welfare report or other court-ordered reports; children’s views can be represented by a Curator ad Litem.
Further information for children, young people and parents is available from the Scottish Child Law Centre www.sclc.org.uk or Clan Childlaw www.clanchildlaw.org
- McGhee, C. (2011). Parenting Apart. New York: Berkley Books.
- Mooney, A. et al. (2009). Impact of Family Breakdown on Children's Well-being: Evidence Review. Thomas Coram Research Unit, University of London.