Child inclusive mediation
Most children do well after divorce and separation, but that will be up to you. Divorce can be damaging for children, but it isn’t usually the divorce itself that causes lasting hurt for children, but rather the parental conflict surrounding it. When parents are in conflict, children will also experience the tension and feel like they are in the middle. They may feel like messengers or peacekeepers. Family conflict during and after separation can lead to ongoing dysfunction, and if that happens, your children will be affected emotionally and even developmentally.
On the other hand, if you and your partner work together to protect your children from harm, avoid conflict and put the children’s needs first, then there’s much less chance that your divorce will have a negative impact on them. That is one of our founding motivations here at Southern Family Mediation.
Research indicates that at the time of separation children feel as though they no longer have a voice in the future structure of their family. That children need information and age appropriate understanding about the changes taking place in their lives: they actually benefit from having some direct input into the plans that are made about their futures. They have anxieties about how the new arrangements are going to work and how it will impact upon their lives in terms of maintaining friendships, schooling, relationships with extended family group members, etc.
At Southern Family Mediation we are a Child Inclusive Practice, and believe that to heal, the whole family must be involved.
Often parents will genuinely believe their children are coping amazingly well with their separation. That the change to two households has worked well. ”we don’t argue in front of the kids”, “they never see me upset”, “I’m always civil on handovers”.
Some parents are at the other end of the spectrum and find the other parent unbearable, cannot even speak to them and the children are well aware of their feelings.
Wherever you may fall within this spectrum your children will almost undoubtedly be hiding their true feelings from you to protect you and your emotions whilst possibly struggling themselves and with nowhere to go.
But what can YOU do as a parent to support your child?
Child inclusive mediation is a forum that assists you to hear and consider your children’s experiences and needs within a brief, therapeutic mediation process. It gives your child an opportunity to speak with a mediator or child consultant specially trained to deal with children and will help you to be fully aware of how they are managing with your separation and what they really want – as opposed to what they think you, as their parents, want to hear.
They will talk to your child and ascertain views on all aspects of what is going on in their lives and arrangements. Its primary aim is to assist parents to re-establish or consolidate a secure emotional base for their children after separation
Children who have had an opportunity to express their views and wishes about the issues affecting them post separation describe feeling relieved and much less anxious. In addition, the ‘listening meeting’ can help them to:
- Make sense of the changes in their lives
- Understand that they are going through a process that many people share
- Express the feelings that are common at this time
- Develop a way of coping if they are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict
In bringing your child into the process –
- Children will not be asked to make choices or decisions
- Parental authority is respected
- Children are seen only with the agreement of both parents
- We will discuss fully with them the process and purpose of a “listening meeting” before involving children
- This is a limited exercise. Research has shown it helps children and parents. It is not therapy or counselling but has a therapeutic quality to it and will help solve problems and may assist communication at a difficult time.
- Children often deal better with their parents’ separation when they feel that their voice and feelings are being listened to.
What does it involve?
We will talk face to face with the mediator separately on the basis that what they say is completely confidential from anyone else including their parents. Very often the child does have something that they want the mediator to tell their parents, and that they would like the parents to take into consideration when making their decision
Direct consultation with children involves a family mediator who is trained as a child consultant talking with a child or children as a part of a mediation in which arrangements are being made for children. The Government’s response to the report and recommendations of the external Voice of the Child: Dispute Resolution Advisory Group have emphasised the central importance of the child having a voice.
If you would like more information about child inclusive mediation, please contact Louisa Dickson.