originally posted July 2015
Interviewing children in the parenting coordination process is often a great way of gaining information. This can be invaluable when working with parents that present with very different opinions as to the views and preferences of their children, or who may be unable to consider their children’s interests at all. Once it has been determined that bringing the child’s views and preferences into the conversation is both safe and suitable, the information can serve as the centre from which child-focused decisions and agreements may radiate.
At times parents may be unable to accept the child’s interests and preferences. Parents may also be unable to allow their children’s needs to take precedence over their own self-interest, despite those needs being vocalized or apparent. Though parents are ultimately the decision makers, and the children do not have the same decision-making authority, parents decisions can be informed by the children’s wishes. By honouring children, even young children, and their place and importance as family members who are also experiencing the hardships of their parent’s separation, relationships can be strengthened.
Like adult participants, children must also be treated with courtesy, respect, and professionalism. Informing children about the limits of confidentiality and ensuring that they feel safe and respected is important for any child regardless of their age and developmental level. It is important to assure children that as a custodian of their thoughts, fears, and concerns, you are committed to ensuring their safety. They must understand that while there are limits to confidentiality, that you respect their privacy, and value their wishes to not have certain aspects of their inner lives revealed to their caregivers. Creating this sense of safety and establishing a trusting relationship with your child clients will provide instrumental in eliciting the information the process will benefit from and ensuring their safe participation.
Jared Norton is a Parenting Coordinator with Riverdale Mediation. He seeks to help parents to develop co-parenting relationships and interactions which support the best interest of their children. Jared helps co-parents address potential risk factors and to enhance protective factors within the context of the child’s world.