Child Inclusive Mediation – what is it and why should I use it?

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What is Child Inclusive Mediation?

It does what it says in the name, it’s mediation which includes the children. However, I think the name of Child Inclusive Mediation can be somewhat misleading. Most people now have an understanding of what Family Mediation is. Mediation is a process which a couple can use when their relationship has broken down to resolve the decisions that need to be made. Mediation is used to avoid contested Court proceedings. Child Inclusive Mediation sounds like the child comes along to some of those Mediation meetings and is involved in the main Mediation process. That is not what happens.

Child Inclusive Mediation is intended to give children a voice at a time when their parents are separating. Very often children do not have someone ‘independent’ to speak to when their parents are separating. Mum and Dad are the main part of the separation and are dealing with their own emotions. Extended family members may have a loyalty to one of the parents, however much they are trying to be independent. Children may not want their friends to know what is happening within their family. Children of parents who are separating will often not have someone independent to talk to about what is happening or somewhere they can talk freely about both parents without worrying about upsetting either parent. Child Inclusive Mediation gives children that space to talk about how life is for them now mum and dad are separating.

Parents have to give permission for a child to meet with a mediator for Child Inclusive Mediation. In most situations, it is for children over the age of 10 but if there is a younger sibling they will be invited to meet with the mediator as well. The mediator has to be trained to meet with children. Child Inclusive Mediation should be discussed by every mediator where there are children in the family over the age of 10 and explored as an option for that family. If the parents agree the child would benefit (and nearly all children do benefit from the meeting) then the mediator will contact the child and invite them to a meeting. The time and date of the meeting will be agreed with the parents in advance of the invite being sent out. It is then the child’s choice as to whether they want to meet with the mediator. Again, it is rare once given this opportunity that a child refuses.

When the child meets with the mediator they will have confidentiality explained to them and will be asked about how life is for them. It is up to the child what they share with the mediator and, even more importantly, the child will decide what information the mediator can share from the meeting with their parents. It may be that the child does not want any information shared but this would be unusual. Most children want some information shared back to their parents. It could be that they just want both parents to know that they love them. Other times they may share how their tummy hurts, or how mum and dad may think they keep their arguments secret but they know when it is happening. Some children may ask that their parents do not ask them to pass messages to the other parent. With older children, many have a view on where they want to live or how they see the week shared between the parents and are happy for this to be fed back.

What the mediator also shares with the child when they meet with them is that although the child’s views on spending time with each parent may be shared with the parent it is not their decision to make. The child is not being asked to decide what happens. It is highlighted throughout the meeting that it is for the parents to make the decisions. No child should feel that they have been burdened with deciding how they spend time with each parent when a separation takes place.

Why should you use Child Inclusive Mediation?

The word I use to describe Child Inclusive Mediation is ‘powerful’. It empowers the child by giving them a voice. The feedback session to the parents is always powerful, often moving to tears when parents recognise their child and what is being said in the feedback. It enables the parents to reflect on what their children are experiencing and enables them to support the children more. It will often break any impasse on the parent’s decision making for the future arrangements for the children.

You should use it because it gives your child the chance to talk about life and how it is for them. The process is not for the parents, it is for the children. Children want to protect their parents and don’t always tell them how they feel, they don’t have the same need to protect the mediator who is perhaps one of the few people who is talking to both parents at the same time. Once you have given your child that opportunity to speak to someone independently, for most families the feedback enables them to move forward with making decisions about their child’s future and keeps the focus upon what is best for your child.

Please contact us to discuss if Child Inclusive Mediation would be appropriate for your family situation, our mediators are trained to involve children in the mediation process and will guide you through the process.

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