Considering the Voice of a Child in
Reducing Parental Conflict
The child’s voice and the voice of the child are common phrases used to describe the active involvement of children by practitioners.
It is more than simply seeking their views, its about asking children about their life, their daily lived experience and then planning your work accordingly. It also involves helping others (parents/carers/other professionals) understand the impact conflict has on their life.
The Feelings Wheel
Sometimes children struggle to identify their feelings
Helping a child to identify their feeling will give them the validation that they are important. Use the feelings wheel to encourage the families that you work with to explore the trigger for behaviour or to help them comminicate honestly about what life is like for them at home.
Working on language skills will help to build resilience and understanding as well as acceptance and honesty.
Information a child provides to you
What are the next steps?
If you are already working with children as part of your role, you know that confidentiality cannot be absolute and that safeguarding procedures must always be followed. Having said that, children may want to share non concerning (from a safeguarding perspective) information with you that they do not want fed back.
Children are often anxious when speaking about their parents/carers and worry that they are going to get them into trouble. You will no doubt find an age-appropriate way of explaining that your role is to help their parents/carers so that they can communicate more calmly and argue less. You can also reassure that what they say matters, that their feelings need to be acknowledged because they are very important.
You might worry aboutShow detailsHow the parents/carers might react when I speak to them?
Will this add to the existing conflict in the home?
Will the child feel guilty about what they have said?
Will the child be worried about consequences?
Parents who care about their children often feel embarrassed or may be in denial about the information shared by their child about them. Many parents are already aware that the environment is not good for them and lots of parents do not want to acknowledge that their child is upset or worried because of something they have done or are doing.
Know that every family will react differently.
Sharing a child's voiceShow detailsSharing the child’s voice with parents (who may be hearing it for the first time) can then begin to see the impact their behaviour is having. This can be an extremely powerful and pivotal moment that kickstarts the cycle of change.
The best approach is for the practitioner to be gentle, mindful of the circumstances and ensure you have the time to respond to what is being said as well as eassuring parents that children find it hard to talk about home life and that it takes a lot of courage for them to share about the impact it is having on them. Ultimately the key message here for parents and children alike is that children should never hold on to their worries.
* Talk to your manager if you are worried about how to feedback children’s concerns so that you are not left feeling unsure about the next steps.
It is good practice to also ask yourself:
- Do I fully understand what this child’s life is like, what they do each day?
- How do the relationships (in particular the conflict) between all family members impact on this child?
- How do they feel about their life right now?
- How does the child describe their relationship with their parents/carers/ siblings?
- Do I feel confident and ready to speak to this child about parental/ carer conflict?
- What is stopping me? Am I worried about opening a can of worms? What can I do about those feelings? Who
can I speak to? Who will support me?
- How do I feel about sharing the things they tell me? What might stop me doing that?
*Talk to your manager if you are worried about how to feedback children’s concerns so that you are not left feeling unsure about the next steps or book onto the training below.