A child-inclusive mediator (CIM) is a specially trained mediator talks and listens to your children. Usually, but not always, the child inclusive mediator will be separate to your mediator or hybrid mediator. It’s usually not suitable for children under 10 years old but there are occasions when it is — it depends on the child.
Both parents (or those with parental responsibility) must agree to CIM taking place. The children must also agree to talk/meet with the mediator. The mediator will screen the family to check it’s the right process for you all; this protects the child and ensures the parents are using CIM for the right reasons.
The mediator will write to the children to invite them along by post or WhatsApp (or whatever the child is most likely to see). The children feel very grown up to be part of things and are often happy to go. If there is more than one child, they can go together or separately depending on their preference, or what the parents think might be most helpful.
The mediator will talk (in person or online) to the child in an age-appropriate way and listen to their situation, or through their interaction with toys and drawings. They will be able to express how they feel about the present and the future. They will not be asked to make a decision about the future arrangements of their care.
The child gets to choose what, if anything, is fed back to the parents. Sometimes, a child might just want there to be a witness to their situation. Or it’s enough that they’ve had the chance to talk to someone that they trust but that isn’t their parents. So this can be enough to help the child feel better.
The mediator may suggest other support services for the children e.g. counselling or useful books/websites. There is then a process for the CIM to report back to the parents.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was agreed by governments (including ours) around the world in 1989. It says what they must do so that children grow as healthy as possible, can learn at school, receive protection, have their views listened to and are treated fairly.
All the rights in the Convention apply to every child, no matter who they are or where they come from.
‘Every child has the right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously.’ – UNICEF
When young people report back about the experience of the parents’ divorce/ separation, they tell of feeling powerless and unheard. Further to this, they didn’t know what was going on and weren’t consulted.
They don’t expect to be the decision maker (so don’t ever make them one) but they would like to have a voice. Child inclusive mediation is a way to give them that voice without also giving them the pressure of making the decision.
“Being different from my friends and being uncertain about my future were the worst parts of the experience. If what was happening had been properly explained to me, in terms I understood, not spoken over my head, I think my life would have been much less stressful and I wouldn’t have felt like I was living in limbo while my parents divorced.” – Anonymous child
Yes, it’s a very successful way to open up a discussion between parents; it’s very rare for the children to say anything that upsets their parents — but they do give essential food for thought. Often the children will reassure parents that they are ok and are dealing well with what’s going on. The children feel heard and part of the process.
The children will have a mixed reaction to an invitation to see the CIM. Expect the following:
Take advice from the CIM about what to say to them. You will be meeting with them separately before you proceed anyway. So that’s the time to ask how best to prepare the children.
To some extent it will be fact specific but generally you explain that you have been working with a mediator to sort things out following your divorce or separation and often the children are asked to go along too.
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