Parents are often consumed with their own needs following separation, and the children’s needs can easily be overlooked. Encouraging them to put themselves in the shoes of their children can give them important insight and create a more holistic approach to the needs of the family.
1. How do your children feel about your separation?
Perhaps the most obvious question to ask, but often overlooked and surprisingly difficult for parents to answer.
2. Can the children speak to you about their feelings regarding the separation?
Acknowledging the children’s feelings, particularly around their parents’ behavior, can give insight that is important for moving forward.
3. How do you treat each other around the children?
Parents can often act badly following separation, and can be oblivious as to the impact of this around their children. They often report feeling positive that this is hidden from the children and they are not exposed to this, but even gentle reality testing can show otherwise.
4. How do you speak about the other parent or members of their family around the children? How do you think this makes them feel?
A common issue for children who want to be free to love and be loved by both parents! Most parents underestimate how sensitive children are to comments made to third parties, tone and even subtle negative references.
5. Do your children feel caught in the middle?
The competitive nature of many separations leaves children feeling that they must align themselves with one parent or the other, and they cannot share special moments with both parents. This can often be seen with messages from the parents being passed between them through the children.
6. How do you think your children feel when you and the other parent do not get along with each other? Are there any times when the children have good times with you both?
This is important to identify, to be able to move to a more positive stage of co-parenting. Although sometimes unattainable, many children wish to be able to spend family time together with both separated parents at the same time!
7. What changes do you think your children would want to see?
A great question that requires the parents to imagine what might be the current experience for their children and how they might be improved. This is particularly powerful when in joint session, and each parent hears the ideas of the other!
8. How do you think the children feel about the current parenting arrangements?
This is similar to the previous question but at a deeper level, requiring the parents to move beyond the practicalities of the current arrangements and think about the emotional impact of this on their children.
9. What questions would you want to ask your children right now?
In the chaos of separation, the children can sometimes come last, and parents consider their own needs rather than those of their children. This question focuses on the children and what dialogue needs to take place to bring them into the picture.
10. If your children were granted three wishes, what do you think they would ask for?
A classic question that is often asked of children, that can ignore the practicalities of a situation but provide a bridge to settlement.