Key issues – Involving Children?
The Voice of the Child
Whilst listening to the voice of a child during separation is vitally important, extreme caution needs to be exercise when allowing a child to make a decision about whether they see a parent or not. There is a huge difference between listening, supporting and educating a child versus giving them responsibility for making decision. Several recent reviews have stressed the importance of listening to the voice of the child however these suggestions have not been tempered with the need to understand the motivation behind a child’s views. It is well known that children develop through stages as they grow towards adulthood and that even by the mid to late teens, they are not fully equipped to be making decisions that have such a profound impact on their futures. It is worth noting that, within Australian society, this is well recognised and enforced in many other areas. For example, we do not allow children to make decisions about whether they drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, engage in sex or even operate a vehicle on a public road until they are considered an adult. All these limitations are for the very simple reason that we, as a society, recognise that children are not sufficiently developed to be making decisions about these activities at such an early age and that they are easily influenced and run the risk of making bad decisions if they do. The suggestion then that a child should be allowed to take on the responsibility of deciding whether or not they see a parent is utterly inappropriate. Especially if it is done in the context of a highly emotional environment of a separation where the separating parties may be pursuing their own agendas and not considering the children’s best interests. It is well known that children are highly susceptible to manipulation and can be easily influenced by a parent of other parties.