Divorce is tough on both parents and children. For moms there’s an awful experience of what we call “premature separation” from their children. Even after children turn 18 and head off to college, it’s hard to adjust to having the children out of the house. It’s really hard to have the children out of the house for stretches of time when they are younger. It just feels too soon. Moms wonder: “How can we be ‘good’ mothers if we are giving up our children’s time with us?”

This is a hard but important question. Most moms will admit that there is not one “best” way to raise all children. Children are different and have different needs and challenges. Most moms also want their children to have a strong, stable relationship with their father, even if they don’t always feel that the father is parenting the way they would prefer. What is difficult is knowing how much separation from Mom is best for the children so that they can spend time with Dad, and knowing when any difference in Dad’s parenting style is harmless and when it is harmful.

In divorce situations, these questions are best answered by a specially trained Child Specialist. A Child Specialist is a child psychologist who helps parents determine a parenting plan that works best for their specific children given the family situation. Child Specialists are only available in collaborative law proceedings. In court, parties use custody evaluators, which is completely different.

A Child Specialist can provide moms and dads with assurances that this or that difference is okay and also warn the parents of things that will be more challenging and potentially harmful to their children. His role is such that he meets with each parent and each child who is old enough to uncover the deepest and most important concerns and issues. He then brings the information to the negotiating table for the parents to use in crafting their parenting plan.

We have always been impressed by how expert information about the children’s needs helps to resolve disagreements in custody negotiations. When moms can be assured that their children are doing okay and that a particular schedule is going to work for them, they can feel as if they are doing their best to be that “good” mom.

If you are concerned about your children as you go through a separation, consider using the practical information you can get from a Child Specialist to address your concerns in a “problem-solving” way (as opposed to an “I’m right-you’re wrong way”). We work with some of the best Child Specialists in the Triangle area and can help point you in the right direction.