Carly Siviour has a background in working with children and adolescents experiencing complex or developmental trauma and has been working with separated families for 15 years. Carly has worked as a Family Therapist, Family Mediator, Family Advisor and Child Consultant. Carly has studied Psychology, Family Mediation and Family Psychotherapy, and is currently studying a Masters in Clinical Family Therapy at the Bouverie Family Centre and La Trobe University.
Reducing the risk of harm for a child with special needs when parents are separating
Better Place Australia has found that in a high percentage of mediations where there is a child with special needs, parents are often very divided over their perception of the child’s needs. It is quite common that one parent does not agree that there is anything wrong with their child. Their child is “normal” and “just needs more discipline”. They will state that the other parent does not know how to manage the child and that they never have any problems when parenting them. Both parents have usually had the initial consultations with pediatricians, GP’s, hospital and feedback from schools.
However, the common consequence is that one parent ends up taking the child to all their specialist appointments, and following a treatment plan, which the other parent will not use when the child is with them. Children with special needs require extra advocacy after separation. This means that some children are at risk of having one parent break all contact with them after separation. Other children are put in the predicament of their medication/treatment plan being stopped when they are with one parent.
Better Place Australia has been reviewing cases where separating parents have a child who has special needs and outlines the characteristics of these cases and has developed a model of care that is responsive to these situations.
Systemic Practice in Child Counselling and Psychotherapy (Resource Table Display)
The process of Family Separation may be one of the most heart-breaking moments in the life of the family. Although parents may experience trauma and high levels of distress, it is children whom are often exposed to immense suffering in the process, and as a minor, have limited means to access support.
In these circumstances, family conflict becomes consuming, overwhelming and distracting for parents, causing a disruption to the process of attachment and routine of consistent parenting. If a parent is unavailable, then the child struggles to learn how to manage their emotional distress or learn other skills needed for life.
At Better Place Australia, parents commence the process of Child Counselling when a child is presenting with behavioural difficulty or psychological distress. In these cases there are circumstances where a child rejects a parent or resists contact with the other parent post family separation. There are indeed situations where the cause of rejection may lead to the need of protecting the child from harm. In other situations, normal preferences, alignments, enmeshment, realistic estrangement, or alienation may present.
In these cases, the Clinician is working in the context of assisting with parental attitudes and responsibilities, family violence, and de-escalating the risk of re-litigation. The systemic practice of psychotherapy and attachment-based family therapy are important in our clinical work to address complex family problems. Clinical experience in this area demonstrates that repairing the both the parent-child attachment relationship and parenting alliance post-separation drives quality in outcome, and furthers sustainable family change.