In a child-centered divorce, we keep the needs of all children in the marriage central to the discussion, focusing not only on protecting them from harm but on maximizing opportunities to strengthen their sense of well-being and security.
When divorcing with children, you have a special set of circumstances to consider.
Does Divorce Harm Children?
Alexander Mediation Group – Child-Centered Divorce and MediationDivorcing parents are often riddled with guilt, believing that they are powerless to prevent their children from experiencing irreparable harm.
This could not be further from the truth! Parents who divorce using mediation — with mindfulness and respect intrinsic to this process — model a high level of problem solving for their children.
Parents who mediate have the chance to consider deeply and design parenting plans and strategies that serve their children’s development in ways that unhappily married people are unable to do.
Research has shown that children are most harmed by exposure to yelling and discord in the family. In mediation, you develop co-parenting strategies, giving children the benefit of two calm and happy households and secure relationships with both parents.
Divorce does not harm children: Discord, disrespect and disfunction do.
What About An Adversarial Divorce? Does That Harm Children?
An adversarial divorce, also understood as a contested or litigated divorce — in contrast to a mediated divorce — can significantly impact children negatively.
The adversarial nature of a contested divorce often pits parent against one another and pulls children into the equation — it is insensitive to the residual effects on the children.
Conversely, mediation helps focus parents on the best interests of their children and helps parents manage conflict in ways that honor their shared love for their children.
Mediation ensures that the needs of all parties are addressed. Mediation is premised on the idea that the needs of children are best represented and attended to by parents who are cooperating with one another.
Mediation bolsters cooperation and enables parents to work together to resolve issues. A child-centered divorce keeps children and familial integrity at its core.
Mediation Strengthens The New Family Structure
A child-centered divorce also supports parents in helping children manage the changing circumstances implicit in divorce and assists parents in building sturdy foundations to house the new family structure.
In a child-centered divorce, the mediator provides information about what can be expected of children of different ages during the divorce process and what can be done to help your children come through the divorce feeling safe and loved.
Because the children are never present in mediation (and should be kept out of range of the adult business of divorce), their interests and needs must be managed by the adults responsible for their care.
Child-centered divorce allows the mediator to bring the focus back to the children, analyzing their best interests while navigating your unique needs.
Because all decisions are being made on behalf of the children, not by the children, and even seemingly unrelated decisions often affect them, the mediator ensures that their voice is included in the conversation.
Unlike litigation where children are often exposed to and even included in the conflictual and aggressive process, not only as bystanders but sometimes enlisted on the front line, mediation protects children while representing their interests.
Mediation is one of the kindest and most conscientious things divorcing parents can do to care for their children.
Child-Centered Divorce — Helping You Always Remember What’s Important
During divorce, feelings of loss, rejection, and fear are normal. When you feel attacked or threatened, it’s natural to become defensive, especially when you fear losing your children or making them into casualties of your problems.
In a child-centered divorce, we work from a different paradigm: we believe that, through a dignified, child-centered process, the family can be redesigned to maximize what works and ultimately create a stronger family unit.
How Child-Centered Mediation Works
We often begin by looking at what is currently happening in the home and the relationship between the parents and the children.
Some of the things we focus on are the children’s understanding of the current situation, their academic and social stressors, their interests and extracurricular activities, specific strengths and limitations they evidence, and any fears or insecurities they express.
In a child-centered divorce, you have the opportunity to have conversations about your children that you may never have had previously. Both of you are able to inform the other of your experiences with each child and what you’ve observed, and a blended, informed picture is created.
We are able to concentrate on each parent’s role and how these may be modified or expanded to best meet the needs of the children. In a child-centered divorce, you determine how to best support one another in raising your children into the adults you hope they become.
We discuss such things as how to manage carpooling and activity schedules, child care coverage when both of you are working, helping kids be organized between households, and how the children can best be connected to each of you when you are not together.
Often, families do not have time to evaluate how things are going in the household. Divorce presents not just many challenges, it also provides the opportunity to identify just how things are going and what requires modifying so everyone can thrive.
If We Love Our Children, Shouldn’t We Just Stay Married?
No one wants to get divorced, particularly when there are children involved. However, when a relationship isn’t working to the extent that a divorce is warranted, staying together “for the good of the family” or “for the children” is a dangerous fiction.
A healthy family is not built upon one person sacrificing his or her happiness for the good of the whole.
That may be necessary in archaic survival situations, when even cannibalism became a viable option, but it is not a reasonable option in achieving a healthy and fertile family.
Pursuing an authentic situation that aligns with one’s inner values and truth — even when that requires disruption, discomfort and change — is appropriate and necessary in order to realize your potential and set an example for your children to do the same.
Honoring yourself and one another, especially when your interests appear to be at odds, is an integral piece of the child-centered divorce. It is a courageous way to role model the best adult behavior.
Children (and adults alike) require stability, so a child-centered divorce looks at which living arrangements and parenting plans are best for the child, fostering calm and cohesion. A child-centered approach focuses on what is most workable and useful, emphasizing flexibility as well as the creation of a reassuring structure.
Developmental psychology shows us that children have specific needs as they age, and those needs vary between a toddler and a teenager and between specific personalities.
Those specific needs are all taken into account during a child-centered divorce. Studies also show that children do best with strong connections and significant contact with both parents.
The cooperation that mediation facilitates enables parents to arrive at innovative and thoughtful solutions, keeping both parents heartily involved in their children’s upbringing. Interestingly, most mediating couples develop balanced custody schedules where the children share time with both parents throughout the week.
Working to Avoid Common Issues That Children Develop During Divorce
Children can react to divorce in a variety of different ways. A child-centered divorce works to empower you by giving you the knowledge of what signs to look for in your children to see if the divorce is negatively affecting them.
We then work together to alleviate these issues and put in place early interventions, if needed.
What Potential Problems Could Our Children Have During Divorce That We Should Be Concerned About?
One common issue families encounter is called parentification. This issue is when a child begins to take on parental roles, shouldering more responsibility than is developmentally appropriate.
This can manifest as a child assuming care-taking obligations that were formerly in the domain of one or both parents.
It can also show up as a child becoming concerned over a parent’s well-being and feeling responsible for a parent’s emotional state. A child-centered divorce educates parents on avoiding these issues and protecting their children from undue burdens and stressors.
Sometimes, something as simple and seemingly innocuous as using a child as your courier for correspondence or support checks can fall under the purview of parentification.
Child-centered mediation sensitizes parents to spot issues early and manage shifting family dynamics proactively.
Child-Centered Mediation Identifies And Resolves Parenting Issues In The New Parenting Paradigm
We work to make sure your child is unburdened by adult situations and free to concentrate on the important business of growing up.
In addition to protecting your children, we aim to foster habits that will support them. One of the most reassuring things for children is knowing they are cared for.
Consistent guidance from two involved parents and parenting as a unit (rather than as adversaries) is critical to maintaining stability for your children. When parents stand together and remain in conversation for the benefit of the children, children process this as meaning they are worthwhile and deeply cared for.
In divorce, and even in non-divorcing families, children test boundaries by “playing parents against one another.” This is when mom says, “no, ask dad,” and so on. When parents are living in separate households and are in less frequent contact, there can be more opportunity for children to test this.
Parents can strengthen their children’s sense of security by including the absent parent in the discussion. For instance, before agreeing to a big request from a child, you might first say, “Let me discuss it with mom/dad first and we’ll let you know.”
While children might want what they want, their deeper need is to know both of you are mutual guardians of their best interests.
Child-Centered Divorce—Giving You the Information You Need To Avoid Accidentally Harming Your Children
Because you’re most likely unfamiliar with divorce, you may not even know what behaviors could potentially be harmful. In child-centered mediation, we give you the knowledge you need to keep your children emotionally and psychologically safe through the divorce.
Another serious issue in divorce is parental alienation, where one or both parents speak or act negatively about the other. While this behavior can certainly be understandable, the harm it can do to your children can be grave.
Child-centered divorce gives you the information and guidance necessary to avoid this.
What is an example of parental alienation? Something as nonchalant as shaking your head in disapproval of something the other parent did can be much more harmful to the observing child than one would think. Child-centered mediation works to make sure your children are not harmed by unconscious and inadvertent acts arising out of the divorce.
A child-centered divorce is sensitive to how even seemingly insignificant gestures can impact your child. By helping to educate parents and attune them to their children’s unique needs, we support families through this challenging time.
Child-Centered Divorce — Empowering You To Protect Your Children
These issues and others can be quite injurious to your children, and the repercussions can have long-lasting effects. Attachment issues, fear of abandonment, and regression (where a child begins acting much younger than he or she is) can all crop up during divorce.
Sometimes parents are so outraged and indignant by what is happening that they feel they can’t help but tell their children “the truth” of why the divorce is occurring and whose fault it is. Overwhelming feelings of being wronged or victimized can make sheltering your children seem impossible.
In a child-centered divorce, we understand this, and we still help keep you on track to avoid damage and fallout. Whatever the reasons for the divorce, children are almost never helped by hearing an adult rendition of events. That’s the essence of child-centered divorce — empowering you to safeguard your children, even when it takes all you’ve got.
In a child-centered divorce, we work with you on how and what to tell your children about the divorce. We help you identify and develop an honest, cohesive, child-friendly narrative that represents what true for both of you but also appropriate and helpful for your children’s understanding.
The goal is that your children are not burdened and that their attachment to either of you is unimpaired. Children deserve to be protected from information they are too young to process and powerless to affect.
Protecting Children From The Damage Of Divorce
Children are vulnerable to interpreting shortcomings of their parents and a breakdown of the marital relationship as reflections of their own worth.
Children understand things through their limited scope of experience and development, which means they often feel directly responsible for what happens around them.
People often talk about children who were exposed to bad divorces having difficulty forming relationships later in life. The critical and more immediate harm is the effect on their relationship with themselves.
This relationship forms the basis of all others. We want to make sure children have every opportunity to feel good about both you, your spouse, and themselves throughout this process and long afterward. Your children’s safety, happiness and well-being is our primary concern.
Contact Us About Child-Centered Divorce Or Mediation
Child-centered mediation is the best choice for parents who love their children.
If you’re considering divorce and you’re not sure what to do next, click here to contact us today. Let us alleviate the stress by helping you decide what to do and figure out if child-centered divorce is right for you.