What I do
What does the Child-inclusive Mediator do? Child-Inclusive Mediators (CIMs) meet with children whose parents are in mediation so that the children can share their thoughts and worries. It’s a confidential process and a safe space for them to offload to an impartial person. This is generally for older children who are aged 10 and above but it’s not a fixed rule; for example, if you have more than one child then it would be unfair if one child got to talk to the mediator and one didn’t so all children in a family should be offered the chance to talk to the mediator if one is 10 or over. It can be a helpful thing to offer children to see if they’d like to talk to someone who isn’t connected to the situation, even if they decide not to meet with the mediator. Children often worry about saying things to their mum and dad because they love you and they don’t want to upset or hurt you. They are often very tuned into you as their parents and know far more about the situation than their parents think!
Following their conversation with the child a CIM then agrees with the children what messages they want fed back to their parents. There might be particular worry they want their parents to know about, or they might have creative solutions for their parents to try. Children naturally bring a child’s perspective whereas adults tend to focus on the problem from an adult perspective. This process gives children a voice in what happens next for them as part of their parents’ separation and enables parents to factor their children’s views into arrangements that they’re making, and how they approach supporting their children.
What I don’t do
We don’t meet with children with a list of questions or an agenda to go through. It’s an informal chat that starts with talking about things they’re interested in to break the ice. Then it flows from what they want to share and talk about.
CIMs don’t prepare a report for parents. After meeting a child the mediator meets with parents to share the messages they wanted their parents to hear. This usually happens very soon after meeting the children. Nothing is written down and we don’t interpret or add to what children have said. It’s their words only. It’s different to children meeting with CAFCASS because their views do not form part of a report and it isn’t fed into a court process.
CIM is not about giving children any responsibility for decision making. It is purely about giving them a voice in what’s happening. All the decision making responsibility continues to rest with you as their parents.
What qualifications, memberships and experience to look for
Any mediator offering CIM should be a member of the Family Mediation Council. They should have undertaken CIM training and continue to have updating training. They should also be insured to speak to children.
As with selecting any mediator talk to them and get a feel for them and their approach. Most parents worry about how their children will cope with their separation. You naturally want to protect them from being hurt or upset. It can therefore be worrying thinking about them meeting with someone who will be a stranger to them. It helps a lot if you both trust in the mediator and the mediation process so spending some time finding the right mediator for you at the outset will be really useful here. Most mediators work online and in person but if you think your children would prefer to see the mediator in person then you will need to ensure you find someone geographically close to you.
Top tips for getting the most out of my profession
If you think this might be a useful way forward for you then pick a mediator that is CIM trained, or who is able to offer this service (some mediators bring in another professional to talk to children). You can find a CIM via the Family Mediation Council’s website.
If you decide to get the ball rolling with CIM then talk to the mediator about how to approach this with your child or children. It helps if you can talk to them together with an agreed approach.
Approach the idea of CIM with an open mind. Your children may welcome a safe space to offload even if they’re nervous about it.
The mediator will ask you both to agree not to coach your children and tell them what to say, or ask them afterwards about what they said. Many parents worry about this happening so it can be reassuring that you will both agree to these rules.
Postscript. This is a very readable article on appointing professional support.