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Child Centered Divorce: What does it mean, and how to do it.

child holding teddy bearIt’s always out there when you read about separation and divorce, “child centered”. What does that even mean? Of course our children are one of the most important topics when dealing with separation and divorce, but what does child centered even mean and how do you know if you are doing it in a way that IS child centered?


Let’s start with what it is. The dictionary defines child centered as giving priority to the interests and need of children. A child centered approach to separation and divorce is when the focus of the negotiations and the process is moved from legal rights, finances, and individual protection and gain to the putting the children’s needs and best interests at the forefront. Although it is important that you know your rights and that you protect yourself in the separation process, it should not be done at the expense of your children. A child centered separation focuses primarily on how this process is affecting the children involved and what plan of action could be taken to alleviate as much tension, stress, drama, and chaos as possible. 


Over time research has shown that it is not necessarily the divorce that causes long term emotional and psychological effects on children, but how that divorce is handled. The more anger, arguing, and chaos in involved in the separation, the higher the likelihood that a child will suffer emotionally. 


The next question. How do we know if our approach is child centered? Well, are you constantly arguing with your ex? Are you more worried about how much money you are getting, or about proving how awful a parent your ex is? Are you battling with lawyers in and out of a courtroom? Are you constantly defending yourself and trying to prove a point, or prove how wront your ex is, or continuing hostility because of emotion rather than fact? If you answered yes to any of these questions then our guess would be that your approach is not child centered. 


None of what was described above is in the children;s best interest. The moment it becomes about YOU it is no longer about THEM. 


What that being said, how do we go about our separation in a child centered way? Mediation is generally the best option in keeping a separation child centered. Your mediator’s focus SHOULD be primarily on what is in the best interest of the children which also includes setting you both up for success. When making decisions it is important to always keep this question at the front of your mind: How will this affect my children?  


Here are 5 tips to keeping your separation child centered:

  1. Keep it all factual- the moment you enter your feelings there is a chance that you are making it about you.
  2. Ask yourself, how will this decision affect my children now or in the future?
  3. Don’t argue over every small detail of the parenting plan. Let’s keep it real, so much will change over time with your children growing up that arguing about every small detail in the parenting RIGHT NOW is a waste of time and money when some of these arrangements can change within the next 6 months to a year depending on the age of your children. 
  4. Look to your mediator for direction. Although they cannot give you legal advice, they can assist you in making decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Remember, your mediator is not emotionally involved in all of this the way you are, therefore they will remain more objective. 
  5. Put yourself in your children’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. 


If you have any questions about whether or not you are taking a child centered approach, contact us today, we would love to help! 

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