Published on January 2, 2023

It is good to acknowledge that you may be nervous and wary of your ex-partner.  Mediation is a really helpful supportive process, but it may still be hard to sit down with your ex even with a skilled mediator present. So what are top tips for your first mediation session?

“Think what matters most to your children – you winning the argument or their parents working together.”

Hopefully you will already have met your mediator and been able to ask questions about the process, be reassured that they will work hard to ensure you both get the best out of the session.

Some tips which may help you before your first joint meeting.

Try to focus on the future and solutions rather than the past and recriminations – consider what you want to achieve from mediation for yourself and your family. Blame is very tempting but does not usually help change anything and uses up a lot of your precious emotional energy. If there is a lot to sort out then it can also help to ask yourself “What is the one most important thing I want to come away from today having achieved?”

Think “problem solving”. Try to imagine this might be someone else’s problem and what would you suggest. This is not to deny your strong feelings but to apply some of your positive rational side and to avoid the emotional aspects overwhelming you.

Mediation often talks about “Win/Win” outcomes. This means that we are aiming for outcomes which benefit everyone especially any children involved rather than one person feeling they have gained a lot and the other very little. That means thinking of compromises which you can both live with. If both of you approach mediation in terms of there being only your own preferred outcome, then you are locked in conflict “My way versus yours”. However, if you can look wider at other alternative solutions which might not be perfect but can work for both of you then these are more likely to be achievable.

For example, if both of you really want the children to live with you, which is understandable as you both love them, then a shared care arrangement can work really well and help the children avoid the loss of either parent

During the joint mediation session, you will be keen to say all that is important to you. The mediator should help ensure this happens for both of you, but it will also help if you can try to slow down and listen to your ex-partner rather than assume that he or she has nothing useful to say. You might be surprised and avoid missing perhaps a positive offer or willingness to meet you half way.

Agreeing Future Solutions

Towards the end of your joint mediation session make sure that you understand and are on board with what has been agreed. Again, the mediator should help clarify and summarise what you have agreed but it is really important that you do not:

Agree to something which you know will not work

Feel awkward about asking questions to make sure you understand the outcome

You should then both receive identical written summaries of the outcome which reflect what you have agreed

Finally, I will share a quote from an eminent child psychologist:

“Think what matters most to your children – you winning the argument or their parents working together”

Sheena Adam contributed to Separating With Children 101‘, 3rd edition, (Bath Publishing, 2023)

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The Impact On Children

It is so easy to be told that you need to put your children first when we are separating, but what does it actually mean? When your life is turmoil and emotions are running high this can feel daunting when there are so many things to think about. If you have a child with someone, then regardless of whatever you think of them or whatever they might have done, they will still have an important role to play in the life of your child. Exceptions to this are rare. Possessive language that excludes or minimises the role of the other parent can negatively impact the relationship between that parent and the child and can increase conflict and make it more difficult to co-parent. We know that conflict and/or parental absence in particular has a negative impact on children.

Parents need to create the right conditions for children to thrive.

For children, whilst separation will bring inevitable feelings of loss and change, they can still thrive if their parents work in partnership to create the right conditions. We know that children are more likely to adapt with fewer problems, and less emotional distress, when parents are able to part with compassion and continue to work together in partnership even when they are not together. On this hub you will find lots of article and tips on how to minimise the impact on children. For example; how do you set up two homes? How do you co-parent well? What does it mean to put your children first? How do you tell your child you are separating? What do I tell the school? What about holidays? And much more...

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