Can Children be Involved in Mediation?

Divorcing parents are understandably uneasy regarding their separation and divorce, mainly what it means for their kids.

Parents stress about where they will live and where their kids will go to school.  They are worried about finances and wonder what will happen with their kids’ relationships with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

It is vital to put the children’s best interests at the forefront.  Divorce is taxing on kids; it can be overwhelming, stressful, and disruptive to their lives, not to mention the psychological effects.

Depending on the children’s age and capability to comprehend what transpires, children can have their voices heard by being involved in their parents’ mediation process.  Their participation allows them to express their feelings openly. 

If both parents and the children agree, the mediator will meet with the children confidentially.  The mediator will stimulate the children to speak about their emotions and how they feel about their parents breaking up.

Usually, kids are mindful of not wanting to hurt their parents’ feelings, and this causes them to remain quiet and not voice their feelings and wishes.  Occasionally, children ask the mediator to give messages to their parents that they are uncomfortable telling them.

The mediator will not ask a child to make decisions about their family situation (such as which parent they wish to live with).  However, children often provide beneficial insight into the household dynamics, which can help the parents put the kids’ needs first and come to a resolution with their children in mind. 

It is paramount to the children that their voices are heard, which benefits their mental health and wellbeing tremendously.

The mediator’s objective is to make a safe space for the child where they can talk freely about what is going on with their family and how they feel.

A few motivations why it may be helpful for your children to be involved in mediation are: 

  • A child may not want to tell a parent what they feel, especially if the child is aware of friction between the parents.
  • A child may not have a chance to speak with both parents simultaneously.  The child may be apprehensive about saying things to one parent instead of simultaneously giving the same message.  It is not irregular for children to say one thing to one parent and something entirely different to the other parent.
  • In families with high emotions or conflict, children are distracted by keeping stability within the family.  They may not feel they have their parents’ consent to dwell on their own feelings.  Speaking to the mediator gives children a chance to think about their views and articulate them to a neutral party.
  • It offers children a private space where a mediator can ask them how they are dealing and a place where their views matter.  It is only fair that if both parents have a space to speak freely about their feelings and what they want, the outcome to be that kids are offered this same safe space.
  • It is a place where the focus is on the children and not the parents and their situation.  Often, parents are so involved in what they are going through that the children internalize what they are going through.

Children don’t need to attend mediation.  The option is there if the children and parents choose to utilize it.  Many parents are unaware of the benefits of including their children in the mediation process.  Speaking to someone neutral often gives children the sounding board they need to heal.

author

Marian Grande

Marian Grande is a Mediator and Founder of Absolute Dispute Resolution. By combining positive communication techniques with her knowledge of family law, civil litigation and legal processes, Marian helps parties solve their own problems and reach lasting agreements that are conducive to all parties involved in a dispute. Marian has over… MORE

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