About living alternatives – how much should your child be allowed to decide?
There are many aspects to consider when planning your children’s accommodation. Children have the right to know what is happening around them and why. They also have the right to express their opinion and say what they think about decisions that affect their lives. But it is the parents who are responsible for making wise decisions that fit the children. As they grow up, children’s wishes should be given increasing importance.
A summary of this article is given below.
The importance of lifting responsibility away from the child
It can be a tricky balancing act to determine how involved children should be. Parents need to protect their children from having to choose between their parents and also taking into account what the child wants and what is best for them. Children are vulnerable and need to be able to rely on adults making decisions about what is best for them, but they are also experts on their own lives. Children have the right to say what they think and to be heard. Therefore, let children be involved in decisions but not responsible for them. It is our responsibility as adults to arrange the family situation so that it suits the children.
To reason and listen
Instead of asking the child how they want to live, we adults can discuss amongst ourselves how we want to arrange the housing. Then describe the background of the proposal, why you think it will be good and how you will help the child to feel at home. Listen then, directly and indirectly, to the reactions. Sometimes the children are clear, and then we take their wishes into account. Sometimes, when the reactions are unspoken, it requires us to interpret them with our gut feeling.
Flexible parents makes it easier for children
Children are often loyal with a sense of justice and weigh our needs and wishes into their decisions. The knowledge that we adults are willing to change if it turns out that the child is not thriving, can make it easier to try. Once you have agreed on a schedule, try it for, for example, three months. Most people need a couple of months to get used to it, get into a rhythm and land. If you adjust the schedule too quickly, it can in itself complicate the sense of well-being because children also need stability. Try instead to help with what becomes difficult.
After the trial period, you evaluate, listen to the child, adjust what does not fit or create new routines. If the climate of the conversation is strained, you can check in with each other and have the coparent-talk on your own. Your municipality help you with such conversations if you want support from someone outside.
Children must be allowed to decide more about their housing solution as they get older
It’s best to have a dialogue with the child about where they want to live and other important matters. There are no legal regulations that say when the child’s opinion should be taken into account. However, in several Swedish court cases, the child’s own opinion has been decisive in assessing the circumstances in the best interests of the child from when they were around twelve years old. It is not uncommon for the opinion of younger children to be significant in the matter of where they live.
It can be a practical question for parents how to get a 14-year-old, who is 185 cm tall and has a shoe size of 44, home if he does not want to live with one. The child’s own will is thus decisive for the residence to work over time.
- Children have a right to know what is happening in their lives and why. They also have a right to express their opinion and be listened to by their parents.
- Parents have the responsibility to make decisions and protect their children from having to choose between their parents.
- It is the responsibility of adults to arrange the family situation so that it suits the children.
- It’s good to try out a living arrangement for a few months and then evaluate.
- As children get older, they have the right to have more influence over their lives. In several Swedish court cases, children’s own opinions on where they live have played an increasingly important role from the age of twelve. Even the wishes of younger children have been given special importance in some cases.
- Children’s own will is decisive for the accommodation to work over time.