In this third blog in our series talking about family mediation we’re looking at children and how they can have their say in the mediation process. We have already talked about what happens in family mediation and what the main benefits are so please check out those blogs if you haven’t already.
When a couple separate and are working out what arrangements they should make for their children it can be helpful to seek the children’s views on this. Many couples worry about how to do this because they don’t want to upset their children or put them on the spot with decision making. This is where Child Inclusive Mediation can be really useful. This process involves a family mediator who is specially trained to consult with children talking to your children about what they would like to happen.
It’s important to point out that this exercise is about seeking children’s views on what they would like to happen and NOT making them responsible for decisions that are made. It would be very upsetting for children to be made to decide which of their parents they live with for example. Children love both their parents and will often tell each parent what they want to hear to avoid upsetting them. The purpose of Child Inclusive Mediation is to enable children to feedback on things like:
1. The structure of time that they feel might work as to when they’re with mum and when they’re with dad.
2. If you have already separated then your children may have clear views on what they feel works and what they would like to change. This may not be big things but it may be, for example, that they would like more time to relax and just be at home with either parent rather than always doing activities.
3. Any worries that they have such as whether they will have a game console, or clothes at each parent’s house or about whether they will still have time to see their friends.
4. They may also want their views to be communicated that they hate seeing their parents fight or seeing either parent upset but have not been able to talk about this issue with either of their parents. Sometimes when children say they don’t want to see the other parent it’s because they’re worried about whether the parent they live with (or are with at this time) will be OK when they’re not there.
5. It may also flag up things like children needing a neutral third party to talk to such as a therapist.
The Child Inclusive Mediation process is designed for older children of say 10 or above but it may be appropriate for younger children to be involved e.g an 8 year old child may want to have the same say as their 11 and 13 year old siblings. It is also designed to ensure parents fully understand the process before the mediator talks to the children – for example, have you thought about the worse thing your children could say to you? How would you deal with them saying this? It’s also important to understand that the mediator will only feed back what the children want them to say and if they don’t want something mentioned the mediator won’t feed this back to you as their parents. Children are also only consulted if everybody involved aggressive both parents and the child themselves. The process will be explained to all of you before you begin and your children will be contacted by the mediator in the way that they would prefer e.g what’s app or text.
This process won’t be what all families want but for families who find themselves stuck over issues relating to their children it can be a constructive way of ensuring that the focus is on the wishes and feelings of the children.
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To watch the video about this blog please click on the video below: