Divorcing or separating couples may choose to mediate and make their own decisions instead of going through the court process. Family mediation can offer a quicker and more cost-effective route as compared to court. Family mediation is based on a philosophy of empowering parents to make decisions for their families through facilitated negotiation. This is designed to help people feel empowered, provide a feeling of control, lessen anxiety and uncertainty.
During the mediation, the family mediator will typically introduce information psycho-social education about the developmental needs and stages of children. In particular, family mediators will present research-based information about what is supportive of children in separating families. This informs the parents on options to make their arrangements going forward.
Separation and Divorce
The process of separating and divorcing can be overwhelming. At this time, it can be difficult for parents to see their children clearly or to understand what may be happening for them. Often parents are unaware of how children genuinely feel as they do not have the vocabulary to express themselves. Instead, children might act out or regress into a younger age to express the stress they are under. When this behavior is misinterpreted, parents might blame the other parent, or feel rejected. This can lead to problems in co-parenting and escalate the conflict.
Child Inclusive Mediation
One way to address this issue is the use of child inclusive mediation. Despite the name, children do not attend the mediation; instead, the child or children will meet with a child consultant.
1. The child consultant will meet with the children of the family and establish how they are doing, what is the experience of being that child at the moment.
2. The experiences and thoughts of the children are then reflected to the parents in mediation. The child consultant presents information through a developmental lens.
3. By hearing the child’s voice, parents can ensure that a child’s need is met, developmentally and emotionally. These reflections and messages can be powerful as rather than children in a research group; parents can recognize the individual voice of their child in the feedback.
4. Guided by the child consultant and the family mediator, parents can then work on arrangements which are tailored to meet the needs of their specific child.
Children are often confused and hurt during the divorce process. They love both parents, and sometimes feel like they need to protect, support or care for the parent they are currently staying with, or who they think is suffering the most. A child consultant will ensure that your child understands the process, is heard and that the child’s voice is not lost.
Children often express themselves through play, art and behavior. A child consultant is trained to understand these expressions and verbalize it back to the parents. Feedback presented by the child consultant is used by the parents to inform their decision-making. Child consultants are careful to explain to children that they will represent their views to help their parents make responsive decisions.
Co-authored with Sala Sihombing
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