Child Inclusive Mediation
“Every child has the right to express their views, feelings & wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day to day home life.”
The above except is taken from UNICEF’s summary of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in the United Kingdom in 1992.
To facilitate this, Child Inclusive Mediation is a service carried out by mediators who have special, additional training in this area. It involves children of around the age of 10 upwards meeting independently with a specially trained mediator who will help them to talk about the changes in their family. This intervention enables children to voice their concerns and identify things that are important to them, and helps parents to develop child-focused arrangements that address the specific needs of their children.
Why is Child Inclusive Mediation Important?
- Children have a strong desire to please both their parents. So, when parents are separating/divorcing children may conceal their feelings to avoid hurting their parents or making the situation worse. This can create feelings of stress and anxiety in them. The ability to express feelings can relieve this. Child Inclusive Mediation helps children voice their views independently to someone who is committed to ensuring that their perspective is brought into parent’s discussions about arrangements for them.
- Parents are often in such a chaotic and emotional state themselves that they can find it difficult and painful to truly focus on how their children are coping and what they need. Child Inclusive Mediation gives parents the opportunity to make decisions from an informed position.
- Although children generally don’t want to make decisions about their care, they do want to be given the opportunity to talk about their experiences and have their voices heard. “A number of studies… have identified that children and young people feel insufficiently consulted by parents and by practitioners about the contact arrangements that directly involve them.” (Making Contact: Liz Trinder, Mary Beek & Jo Connolly, 2002.)
“We don’t like it, or you, if you criticise each other. It makes us feel bad and affects us at school and other places.”
“Tell us what is happening and why. But we don’t want to hear any personal details, or be involved in whose fault you think it was.”
For stories, poems, videos and other articles from children, young people and professions that reinforce the importance of allowing your child’s voice to be heard, have a look at the Children’s Voices section of our blog >
The Child Inclusive Mediation process:
Arranging child-only meetings:
Child Inclusive Mediation can only be arranged with the permission of both parents. With this consent in place, the mediator will write to the child or children to offer an appointment and explain what the meeting will be about. The child or children can then choose if they wish to attend or not.
The child-only meeting:
The child or children meet with the mediator without parents present. First the mediator will explain confidentiality. Then the child or children can talk to the mediator about how they are experiencing the situation they are in, what is working well and what is difficult, and how they are feeling. Finally, they agree on what will be fed back to their parents. This can be as much or as little as the child or children wish. Siblings can decide whether they want to be seen separately or together, or a mixture of the two.
After the child-only meeting:
Parents and mediator meet to discuss the child / children’s views and comments and make informed decisions based on these. Parents may need to prepare for difficult feedback from children. This can be done in individual or joint sessions.
It is important to understand that Child Inclusive Mediation is not counselling. It is an opportunity for children to express their feelings and talk about their experiences in a safe and supported environment, but not explore them deeply.
If your child needs more support counselling may be helpful for them. This can be accessed through private services, but is also often available to children through their schools Early Help scheme, on request. In addition, services can be accessed through the NHS by GP referral. Some services also accept referrals from parents. You will also find contact information for organisations that provide emotional support for adults and children on our resources page: https://www.ablemediation.com/resources/.