Preparation for and Use of the Needs Assessment
You have taken the parent seminar or read the review. You have read the introduction thoroughly and understand in general terms how a family transition may affect children of different ages and how to help them cope. Now you are ready to make this information fit your child or children and your family.
The first step is to look at each child in your family separately. Take out a picture of your child and display it in such a way so that you can look at your child and think about them as you answer each question.
The tool you are going to use, the Needs Assessment, will help you define the needs of your child within each area of development. We advise that you complete one Needs Assessment and your former partner do that, too. After you each complete a Needs Assessment, it will be helpful to compare your responses with each other. You will hopefully find that there are a lot of areas you see your child similarly; in some areas you may have more information about your child and the other parent may be more knowledgeable in other areas.
- Please don’t worry if you can’t fill out every aspect of the Needs Assessment. The areas that you don’t know you can learn and the Needs Assessment helps to pinpoint the fact that you may need more information.
- Not every question will be applicable to every child. Fill out every section that pertains to your child.
- If you are filling out more than one, the subsequent Needs Assessments may be easier, as some information such as childcare, schools, and parent responsibilities may apply to more than one child.
- As a parent, you are undoubtedly a very busy person! Give yourself some time to complete this task. You may want to do no more than one or two sections of the Needs Assessment per night. The end result, a very thorough and thoughtful study of each child’s needs for a parenting plan is well worth the time.
Your Child’s Personality
Child’s Name and Age:
How would you describe your child’s personality and temperament? Do you have any concerns about your child’s temperament?
- Most outstanding characteristics
- Ability to express feelings
- Ability to tolerate frustration
- Ability to solve simple and complex problems
- Ability to handle new situations (people, environments)
What has helped you to respond to your child’s personality and temperament in the past?
What aspects of your child’s personality and temperament need special consideration in your decision-making?
Understanding Separation, Divorce and Family Change
Regardless of whether you have already explained the family change to your child or children, it will be a discussion you will have again and again. As children grow and are able to understand more, their questions may change. You are never really finished explaining. You are your child’s first teacher in all matters of the heart. How you explain ending an unhealthy relationship and maybe someday beginning a new relationship is an opportunity to teach your child about love and life and family. Refer to our list of suggestions in explaining family change to children
Tips for Explaining Family
Change to Children:
- Avoid sharing adult information with children. Use more general terms in explaining, like, "Mom and dad have problems we can’t solve; we’re not safe together;" or, "we fight a lot."
- A separation is never a child’s fault. Remind them of that!
- Reassure the child that each parent loves the child and will always be there for the child.
- Explain how the family change will affect the child’s routines.
- Explain how and when the child will see each parent.
- Understand that each child will have his or her own reaction to the change.
- As children grow and become ready to form their own relationships, use discussions about family change to teach about healthy relationships.
A. What has child been told by each parent?
B. What has child's reaction been?
C. What are remaining sources of confusion or distress to child?
D. Does child know when he/she will see each parent?
E. Does child know how to contact each parent?
F. How does parent reassure child (safety, time with parent, sense of family)?
Relationships between parents and children can change and grow. There may be less stress and it may be easier to have a relationship with your child after ending a difficult relationship. At the same time, you may need to put yourself in your child’s shoes to understand what losses and feelings they are experiencing and how they may be different from yours. If you didn’t have a close relationship prior to the separation, you may need to take time to allow your child to feel closer to you. To help you feel comfortable describing your relationship, recall one of the best times you and your child had together. What did you do as a parent to make this a special time? What did your child do to make it the best?
A.Briefly describe your child's relationship with you (past and present):
B.How is each parent involved in each of the following areas of the child's life:
1.Fun and pleasure
special time between parent/child:
specific help - content
education for healthy nutrition
bed, mattress for child at each home
makes sure child has adequate sleep
age appropriate privacy
listens to child
respond to child’s emotional needs
provides emotional support
comforts child when upset
assists child with problem solving
allows child to have communication with other parent
7.Helps with chores/activities:
what are they
child’s involvement in determining tasks
how frequent; parent and child expectations
what happens if tasks aren’t completed
takes to library
reads with child
Provisions for Child's Supervision and Safety
It is important to first define the meaning of children’s safety. There is the physical safety of taking care of a child medically, providing age appropriate supervision and guidance and having rules in the home and elsewhere. There is also psychological safety, reassuring children that they are loved, safe and will be protected by the significant others in their lives. Often, during the stress of a family change, parents don’t realize the layers of worries children have about their own and their parents safety and security.
Children of all ages have experienced a significant increase in anxiety as a result of terrorism, sniper attacks, storms, and crimes. Families need emergency plans. These plans become more complex with two different homes. Try to agree on a plan with the other parent. At the minimum, inform the other parent, the child and the child’s school of your emergency plans.
A.Time alone unsupervised:
Child’s reaction to being alone
2.How is child prepared to handle emergencies?
What is emergency plan?
3.Does parent have access to friends/relatives phone numbers at each parent's house:
4.What arrangements (rules, tasks, reporting back to parent) does parent make when oldest child is responsible for younger children?
1.Are both parents included in selection of childcare?
Safety and Security
2.What criteria are used to select childcare?
age appropriate activities
ages of children
experience of provider
ratio of providers to other children
number of other children
Guidance or discipline helps children to function as civilized, productive people. It gives children parameters to behave in certain acceptable ways and teaches them consequences when they don’t. Parental guidance provides children with a sense of security.
While all parents have their own approach to discipline, most good discipline plans have these components:
Clear, enforceable, age appropriate rules and consequences
Rewards for exemplary behavior
Involvement of child in setting rules, consequences and rewards.
1.What are rules and consequences child follows?
2.How is child included in making age appropriate rules and establishing consequences?
3.How are consequences implemented?
4.How are different rules and consequences handled at each parent’s home?
5.How does child handle differences between homes and how are differences explained?
6.What provisions are made when child goes from one home to another?
Health includes both physical health and mental health. Research has increasingly linked the two. There is now solid research that indicates that children, when they have psychological support to help them through transitions with participation from their parents, have significantly fewer psychological problems than children who don’t have a place to talk about their feelings. Counseling, support and other resources can make a significant difference in how all family members cope.
A.Past history including hospitalization; surgery; copy of immunizations
(Please make list on separate page and attach to this needs assessment.)
3.Specific problems/conditions, allergies:
C.Name, addresses, phone number of physician, therapists, dentists, other helping professionals:
Current medical treatment:
How is each parent involved in any medical treatments?
D.Possible Future Needs:
The extended family is so important to children and parents. Try not to have your family members take sides and cut out your children and your former partner. Extended family can remain loving sources of support and nurturing for children.
The more you sanction and invite age appropriate peer activity, the better the relationship you will have with your children. Acknowledging the importance of peer relationships tells your children that you understand them, care about their happy times and enjoy having their friends over to your home.
Children need time to adjust to new significant others in their parents’ lives. The children came first and have a tremendous sense of loyalty to the parent who is the same sex as the significant other. There are a few simple guidelines for significant others. First, be selective with whom you choose to introduce to your child. If you only have a day or two in a week to spend with your child, spend it exclusively with him or her, especially if the separation is recent. Do not force your child to have a relationship with a new significant other and be discreet in your behavior. You deserve to find relationship that you can feel happy and healthy in; just recognize that you will most likely be ready for this change before your child and always put your child first.
A.Extended Family Members: What are both extended families doing to continue a meaningful and supportive relationship with your child?
1.Frequency of visits, phone calls:
2.Names, addresses, phone numbers of relatives:
3.Support extended family provides to child:
Who takes care of them?
C.Long term relationships:
1.How does parent encourage peer relationships?
2.Who are child's friends?
3.Does parent know friends' parents?
4.Have friendships changed recently?
E.Parents’ Adult Relationship
Introduction in an age appropriate way
Discretion in introducing child to other adults
Assurance from both biological parents that it is alright to like parent’s significant other
Special time between parent and child
Allows child to have independent feelings and thoughts
This is a wonderful time to connect with your child, feel proud and communicate to your child. It also becomes open season for conflict if parents don’t discuss the activities beforehand and agree to let the child participate regardless of which house the child is at. Attend activities with rules that you will greet each other, not argue with each other, and not expect your child to choose to spend time with one parent over the other. Setting rules up beforehand prevents a multitude of potentially upsetting situations for you and for your child.
How was decision made?
E. Performing Arts:
If you have a school-age child, you know just how much time and effort goes into fully participating in the academic arena. Children have multiple classes, each with it’s own rules, expectations and studies. Many children and parents take all this responsibility in stride and many others are overwhelmed by it. Everyone has relative strengths and weaknesses and every child may benefit from a little extra attention in the area they find most challenging. Work with your child, your child’s teachers and your child’s other parent to address each of the areas below.
A.Academic (recent/long term):
1.Grades past year:
2.Standardized testing results:
3.Special tests - results/recommendations:
What does each parent do to implement recommendations?
4.Contact with teachers, counselors, administrators, and other school personnel:
Plan to implement
Impact on academic achievement
Impact on peer relationship
Inform/discuss with other parent
B.Behavior in school:
Ability to change behavior
Concerns about behavior
C.School clubs; activities:
D.Social Relationships at School:
How do parents participate in school events: assist, attend, agree to respectful behavior?
1.What are they?
2.How do special needs affect child:
How has each parent implemented them?
oHelps to structure tasks
oProvides positive reinforcement
oCommunicates with specialist
oCommunicates with other parent
Child's Living Arrangements
A.Current living arrangements:
B.How are transitions made; child's reactions:
C.Child's preferences and reaction to current arrangements
Behavioral changes noted by either parent
How are they planned?
How are plans discussed with each child?
Is child able to request changes?
G.What philosophy do parents share regarding renegotiation?
What provisions are included in renegotiation and relocation?
Is there a neutral third party to assist parents in renegotiation?
Remember that the co-parent relationship is like a business relationship, completely separate from the romantic relationship you may have once shared or even the "ex" relationship. The focus in a co-parent relationship is completely on the child. Discussion between co-parents needs to be planned, formal, clear and child-focused. Stay away from anger and hurt by setting a consistent time to talk with a set agenda.
A.How frequent is communication with other parent:
B.What information is discussed concerning child:
1.School - achievements; activities; problems:
has friends’ parents’ names and phone numbers
encourages friend time at each parent’s home
activities with peers
frequency of contact
4.Physical and psychological well being:
child’s mood or affect
age appropriate changes/concerns
feelings of self-esteem
C.How are rules/consequences similar; different at each parent’s home?
How does parent explain differences?
What flexibility is there for child to adjust to differences in households?
D.How does each parent resolve conflict concerning child:
F.How do parents discuss child's changing needs and make appropriate modifications:
G.How can you support your child’s other parent’s strengths?
H.In what ways would you like the child’s other parent to support the strengths in your parenting?
I.How would you communicate and renegotiate child’s changing needs?