When Child Inclusive Mediation started being mentioned about five years ago, many people, myself included, had visions of a version of the direct child consultations that used to happen at court and which were undertaken by Judges to find out what the child(ren) wanted. More than anything else they were to aid court decision making.
Therefore, it was extremely wise of those who designed the current Child Inclusive Mediation scheme to ensure that all practising mediators, accredited or not, had to attend a Child Inclusive Mediation Awareness and Understanding Day. This made clear that the children did not come into the mediation room, that they and their parents had to consent to them being spoken to and the children had to also consent to anything being fed back to their parents.
It is possible for any mediator to offer Child Inclusive Mediation as the children can be seen by another mediator, who has done the training, and they can report any feedback that there is to the parents in the next joint meeting or a special feedback session with the usual mediator.
However, many people want the same mediator to handle their mediation and speak to their children because the context in which the children are met is better understood.
Doing the Child Inclusive Mediation training makes it clear that the meeting has very clear boundaries and neither parents, their lawyers nor their mediator should be concerned about it. The children are not asked their opinion about any of the disputes; they are not expected to aid the decision making process and if their views do then that is secondary to the aim.
The aim is to give children the chance to have their voice heard - to ensure that, if they are over the age of 10 years, they are not invisible in the process.
It is a well-being meeting to check how they are and how things are going for them. It is entirely private and confidential unless they ask for something to be fed back to their parents. This is done in a sensitive manner so as not to put the children in a difficult position.
Parents who agree to their children being seen are not putting their children in a difficult position or putting unwelcome pressure on them. Quite the reverse. The research shows that just being asked how you are following the changes at home, by a neutral person who is helping your parents, aids a child’s short and longer term development. It might also have the effect of improving things at home as the child’s perspective becomes more centre stage. It is a long way from the meetings that children had with Judges and should be embraced.
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