Most well-meaning parents will be horrified if their relationship starts to dissolve, as they have the first interests of the children at heart. If they can see that the outcome is inevitable, they may invariably try to shield the youngsters from most of the detail, as if this will somehow soften the blow. While this may be laudable from an emotional point of view, it may not be the best approach in this situation. Why should they try and engage the children more at this point to try and improve the outcome?
Asking the Children
In an ideal world, two separating adults will come to an amicable agreement and handle all their affairs by themselves. However, this is not always possible, and these situations often end up in front of a court. When this happens, emphasis will be placed on the welfare of the children over and above the needs of the adults, but in any case, the adults really should adopt what is known as a child-inclusive process of mediation.
Turning It Around
Rather than excluding any children from the conversation at all, this process will actively ask them for their input. They will get the chance to vocalise how they feel, and it can often help the adults to focus more on the bigger picture and less on their own internal issues.
To kickstart the process, the parents will need to sit down around the table with an independent assessor. In an ideal world, the children would also be present at these meetings, but the assessor will make that call based on their experience of similar situations. The idea here is to determine if this form of mediation is recommended, and if so, the parents will need to sign off the agreement.
Talking with the Children
From that point on, a child consultant will sit down separately to talk with the children in a confidential setting. They are very skilled individuals who are trained to work with kids of all ages and will encourage them to communicate in a variety of different ways. Sometimes this will involve simply talking, but the consultant can learn a lot by watching them play, read out loud or draw pictures. It's important to note that this information is fully confidential and will only be communicated to the parents if the child agrees.
Once these meetings have concluded, the information is correlated, and a report is put forward to the adults in a subsequent meeting. The objective is to create a plan that takes this data into account and fully includes the children in future decisions.
Make sure that you engage in this type of process by talking with your family lawyer about your options. This will help your children to feel less marginalised and more involved in the entire process.