Research highlights that a high proportion of children say that no-one spoke to them before, during or after their parents’ separation. One of the important decisions that parents have to make is how and what they will tell their children about what is happening. It is important to recognise that every child is an individual and experiences of parental separation will vary from child to child, family to family. Not all children will want to talk. But for some children, Child Inclusive Mediation offers the opportunity for them to meet face to face with a Family Mediator who is specially trained as a Child Consultant.
The Government has suggested that children aged 10 and above should generally have access to a mediator when questions about their future are being discussed and arrangements are being made in mediation. Sometimes parents feel that the views of their child should be sought to help them make decisions.
It is important that parents understand the views, needs and wishes of their children. At the same time, it is important for parents to be aware of making assumptions when trying to understand what is going on for the child, why children might be behaving in certain ways or thinking/feeling certain things. At the face to face meeting, the mediator will gather information about how the current situation is impacting on the child on a practical and emotional level and obtain the child’s views that will inform parental decision-making during their mediation. Children provide information which has the potential to shape and influence family arrangements BUT decision-making clearly remains with parents and it is important that children understand that they are not responsible for the overall decision.
Involving children in mediation can be very complex and a great deal of preparation is needed before a mediator will speak to a child. Different considerations apply depending on the age and maturity of the child. The child and both parents have to agree to the consultation. It is the mediator’s decision whether child consultation is appropriate.
The Child Consultant will meet with the child face to face and separately from the parents. Consultations with a child usually last approximately 45 minutes. The meeting is confidential but often, a child does have something that they want the mediator to tell their parents. With the child’s permission, the mediator will then bring the child’s voice into the mediation by sharing what has been said.
At Vollans Mediation we have extensive experience of working with children and young people in mediation, including offering online consultations during the Covid Pandemic. To find out more you can read our Child Inclusive Mediation , Contact Us or Make An Online Referral