Mediation and the voice of your child
The breakdown of your family is a very upsetting and confusing time for your children. They often worry about where they will live, where they will go to school, when they will see their other parent or their friends or family pet. It’s also very common for children to worry about you and money matters. Children often feel excluded from having any say in what happens to them during this time. This can lead to your child feeling angry or resentful and unable to talk with you about how they feel.
When you and your former partner come to mediation to discuss the arrangements for your family, your children are not part of that process. However, there maybe times when it’s right that their views and feelings should be taken into account in the mediation.
If both of you and the mediator think that this is appropriate, the mediator will arrange to have a separate meeting with your child. Mediators who undertake direct consultation with your child are specially trained to do this. It will be a different mediator to the one that is working with you. The age and maturity of your child will be considered and of course, if you’re children don’t want to be involved, they won’t be. Experience shows that often, children do like to have their views and opinions heard and taken into consideration. However, it is you and not your child that makes the final decisions. This helps them to feel heard, without placing any responsibility on them.
Just like your mediation session, the session that the mediator has with your child is confidential. The mediator will only share with you what your child wants you to know. If you have more than one child, your children may be seen separately and or together. This session usually lasts about 45 minutes and your children will be given the chance to say what they would like to happen. If your children give permission, their thoughts and feelings will be fed back to you in your next mediation session.
Direct Child Consultation can be beneficial to both you and your children. Helping them feel part of the decision making process supports their sense of identity within your family, and can also support you to see the bigger picture when you are feeling hurt or emotionally vulnerable. However, Direct Child Consultation is not always in the best interests of your children. Where possible, it is better for parents to make adult decisions and be parents!