Published on June 25, 2024

Following my most recent article ‘What Is Family Mediation And How Can It Help?’ it makes sense to follow it with a look at ‘what is child-inclusive mediation.’

One of the hardest aspects of getting divorced or separating is planning for children. Parents dealing with their own emotions, and who may be going through a really difficult time themselves, have to find the time and energy to make arrangements about living and contact, and this can be particularly difficult where relations between the parents are fraught.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Research Findings Show That:

  • Children want a voice in the decision-making process about arrangements being made for them.
  • Having a voice in a parental mediation is empowering for the children.
  • Speaking to a neutral third party gives the children an opportunity to discuss things that they might feel that they cannot raise directly with their parents.
  • That inclusion in mediation sends a message to the children that their parents care about their opinion.

Child-inclusive mediation involves a qualified mediator spending time with the children in a separate confidential session which usually takes around an hour. The purpose of the meeting is to offer the children the opportunity to have a say in the arrangements, to put forward any suggestions, feelings or concerns that they have. The children are not asked to make any decisions – this is the role of the parents – and the mediator will ensure that they are not made to feel that they are being asked to choose between parents.

The primary goal is to give children a voice and an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the issues being mediated, particularly those that directly affect them.

This Is How Child-Inclusive Mediation Typically Works:

  1. Meeting with the parents: Meeting with children in the context of a family mediation needs to be undertaken with great care and can only go ahead with the agreement of both parents. The mediator will first discuss with the parents the issues that they wish to discuss in relation to their children and will find out as much as possible about the children and their unique needs.
  • Age and maturity considerations: Child-inclusive mediation is typically considered most appropriate for children over the age of 10, but the specific age at which children are included may vary depending on factors such as their level of maturity, communication skills their understanding of the issues being mediated and the involvement and ages of other siblings.
  • Children’s consent:Once the parents have both agreed to the children meeting with the mediator, the mediator will contact the children directly to ensure that they are willing to come to meet with a mediator – this is ultimately the child’s choice. The mediator will discuss with the parents how best to broach this topic with their children.
  • Confidential meeting: The meeting with the children is confidential except in a situation that gives rise to any child protection issues, in which case the mediator would be obliged to report these concerns to a child protection agency. The mediator will make a careful note of the things that the child wants to share with their parents, and of any suggestions that they want their parents to consider.
  • Feedback to parents: After meeting with the children, the mediator provides feedback to the parents and will discuss with them what arrangements they want to make for their children taking on board what the children have said.

The Potential Benefits Of Child-Inclusive Mediation Are:

  • Promotes children’s wellbeing: By giving children a voice in the mediation process, child-inclusive mediation prioritises their wellbeing and ensures that their perspectives are considered in decisions that will affect their lives.
  • Enhances parental understanding: Hearing from their children can help parents better understand their children’s needs, concerns, and preferences, facilitating more informed decision-making.
  • Reduces conflict and resentment: Including children in the mediation process can reduce conflict and resentment between parents by better understanding their children’s needs and views.
  • Supports child-centred solutions: Child-inclusive mediation encourages parents to focus on solutions that take account of what their children are saying and are therefore more child-centered.

Overall, child-inclusive mediation provides a valuable opportunity for children to have a meaningful voice in the resolution of family disputes. It also promotes their wellbeing and contributes to more informed and durable agreements between parents.

If you like to find out more about the author Rebekah, you can find her profile HERE.

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And is in relation to the topic…

The Early Days Of Separation

Humans are designed to cope with many onslaughts, but change continues to prove extremely challenging. How you manage the early days of separation or divorce has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the process.

When couples separate, they are often thrown into a period of uncertainty. Identities are changing from couple to single, from mum and dad together as a family unit to mum with children and dad with children. Depending on the circumstances and who decides to leave the family home, there are many questions that arise during the early days of separation. “Will we have to sell our home?” “I haven’t worked since we had children – how will we manage financially?” “What will our friends and family think?” “How much will divorce cost?”
“Will I cope on my own?” There seems to be so much to sort out both practically and emotionally and it comes at a time when at least one of you will be ‘all over the place’ emotionally due to the loss you are experiencing. This can make decision-making seem impossible. Who wants to agree the practicalities of legal issues and more importantly organise the children when they are devastated, angry and confused by loss? It can turn otherwise rational, clear-thinking mums and dads into what appears to be belligerent, stubborn, unreasonable people.

Take Your Time!

In those early days of separation or divorce, take your time if you can. Seek support from friends, family and professionals. Try not to make any big decisions too quickly.
Bear in mind that communication problems with your ex and all the pressures on family life you are now experiencing, like for many separating couples, will get better with time. It’s important to recognise that you and your ex will more than likely be in very different emotional places at the moment; different stress levels and anxieties will be making communication difficult. Taking the time to sometimes do nothing, to not react, give things a day or two, can prove very useful techniques.
What you have to remember is that if you have children, your ex is always going to be part of your life. That can be hard to take on board when you are feeling hurt and angry. If you can find a way to communicate with each other that focuses on the children, you will all benefit in the years to come.

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