Child Inclusive Mediation – A Guide For Parents
It is widely acknowledged that getting divorced or ending a long term relationship are two of the most stressful events anyone ever has to face.
You may be finding it very hard to cope; experiencing overwhelming feelings of anger and loss, day to day decisions may be difficult let alone making decisions for the future.
What about your children? What is in place for them? They may be your priority, and you want to do all you can to support and protect them, but what do they need? How can you best help them as they try to understand and come to terms with the changes in their family?
What kids say:
“I can’t say it to my mum because she’s upset enough already and I don’t want to upset her more.”
“I just say what I think they want me to say.”
“I just want them to know how I feel but I can’t do it. My dad will get angry and my mum will get upset.”
How do you get to the truth?
Sometimes a child feels caught in the middle, saying one thing to one parent and something quite different to the other about the future they want.
What is Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM)?
Where we meet separately with your child (away from your joint mediation meetings) and talk through how things look from their perspective. How are they managing? What, if anything, would they like to be different? Are they OK with current arrangements?
This meeting is voluntary for your child and what they talk about is confidential. We work hard to create a safe space where they can express themselves. We then work together to find the words they want to pass back to you, via us. We relay their exact words to you at your next joint meeting.
Your child does not take part in your mediation meeting usually. The information they may relay is for you to use in your decision making as their parents.
You may find the information in this link helpful: https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/family-mediation/mediation-meetings-sessions/can-children-involved-sessions/
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How will this help your children?
In the meeting we do more than just ask what your children think about things at home.
We make sure they have enough age-appropriate information; we give them a space to express their views. The meeting gives your child a place where their views are listened to, respected, and considered seriously.
This lets them know that what they think matters.
Frequently Asked Questions
My ex says it’s me turning the kids against him. How can I let him know that this is not coming from me?
CIM is perfect for this. Both parents will hear from the child about what the issues actually are (provided the child wants this passed back of course). A parent wrongly blamed for alienating the child will be able to show the other parent that these feelings are actually the child’s. You can then work out how to handle this together.
I’ve read a lot online and I know that this is parental alienation.
At Horizon we have mediators who have trained in parental alienation to an advanced level. We have strategies to identify if you are right or not and pathways set out about how to deal with these cases which we can share with you.
Are my children safe with you?
At Horizon all out mediators who work with children are DBS checked. Please let us know if you’d like to access the online certificate.
How do you meet with my two children?
Every child is different and we will find out a bit about them from you both before we meet them. We will always spend some time in the meeting with each child separately, but for shyer children they sometimes prefer to start off with their brother or sister, which is fine.
What if my child does not want to meet with you?
Then we will not be able to schedule a CIM meeting. Children can change their minds and meeting with them later on in the process is always possible but always voluntary.
My ex will grill the children about your conversation.
We will ask you both to sign the consent form where we make it clear that we will only proceed if there is an agreement that this will not happen. We tell your children you have signed this agreement.
I know what my child thinks. I don’t need someone else to ask them.
It can be very difficult for those children who carry our emotional baggage and who may feel like they need to be responsible for our feelings. If you have a close bond with your child they may really struggle to say certain things to you and the mediator may be able to help you both here.
I don’t want to make them meet with someone they’ve never met before.
Children must not be made to come. They cannot be made to talk to us, but on the whole children find the experience positive. Some choose to come back and meet with us more than once as matters develop. We are approachable, friendly, and non-judgmental. We handle the CIM meeting with care.
iMy ex will tell my child what to say to the mediator… It’s pointless.
At Horizon Mediation we are all specifically trained to carry out the Child Inclusive Mediation meetings. As communication specialists, we are adept at spotting parents’ words coming out of children’s mouths. We know how to ask the right questions, how to look beneath the surface and we use our training to dig a little deeper in a child-friendly conversation.
My ex won’t let the kids meet with you. What next?
Once we have explained what we offer most parents will reconsider even if they are initially reluctant to try this approach. This is often more acceptable than what your children would be exposed to in a Court process. The meeting can only go ahead with consent from both of you.
I don’t want to put the children in the middle and make them choose.
Your children will never be asked to choose; they are not decision makers, you are. CIM gives your children permission to share their thoughts in order to find a way out of that ‘stuck in the middle’ feeling. They will just be asked to share ideas that they have about what could work for them.
Why do we need to involve the children? Why can’t we just talk about what we know and make decisions?
Research has proven in a 4 year follow up that including the children (as opposed to just speaking about them) resulted in:
- Less action over the care and living arrangements
- Higher rates of overnight contact with fathers
- Greater stability of care and contact arrangements
- Higher satisfaction with living arrangements for fathers and children
- Greater reduction in parent acrimony both mother and father
- Greater confidence for fathers in their parenting capacity
- Better management of disputes when they occurred post mediation
- Lower impact of father’s new partner on parenting disputes
- More reports by parents of having learned something about their child
- Lower conflict between parents as perceived by children
- Children feeling less caught in the middle between their parents, children feeling less distressed about their parents conflict
- Lower levels of conduct disturbance in children (Benefits of Child Inclusive Mediation)
What is the role of the mediator?
As mediators we are committed to ensuring you contribute equally in the mediation sessions. We help you actively listen to one another and consider all the information.
We help you negotiate and seek outcomes which are realistic and fair for both of you.
We balance the conversation, help you test the reality of suggestions made, and prevent conflict from escalating; conflict which prevents you from making agreements for the future.
We do not judge you or your situation.
We do not make decisions for you – we may put forward options you may not have considered but you will make the final decisions.
You will decide on the outcome: we will provide legal information and use our conflict resolution experience and skills to help you on the way.