What is Child Inclusive Mediation and Counselling? An Introduction for parents
After separating, many parents have some disagreement about how they will parent their children. This might be about time the children spend with each parent, how they are cared for, schooling, religious instruction, time with new partners, communication, conflict management and so on.
Many divorce mediation and counselling services exist, to try to help parents resolve these disputes, before they get too serious, and require legal action.
In mainstream practices, normally only the parents are involved. Mediators assess whether each parent is ready and able to participate in a mediation process, and self determine their own parenting arrangements. Counsellors and therapists works with parents to help resolve some of the emotional issues that come with separation. Both are important supports at a difficult time, and can work just fine.
Child Inclusive mediation and counselling is a little different. Here’s how:
- As the name implies, parents take part in mediation or counselling, and – indirectly- so can school aged children, through involvement of a trained child specialist.
- Separate to their parents’ sessions with the mediator or counsellor, children spend a private session or two with a child consultant – someone who specializes in family separation – to share their story of their parents’ separation.
- This process has some important boundaries. Parents are encouraged to support their child to feel comfortable and genuinely included in this safe and supported way. Equally parents are discouraged from telling their child “what to say” or asking the child too many intrusive questions after a session.
- In their private time with the child consultant, young children draw and play about what it’s like to be them these days, and older teens mostly talk it through. Children are never asked to make decisions.
- The child consultant attends a session with the parents and mediator or counsellor, where they feed back some carefully thought through reflections on how the child seems to be faring, anything that might help, and anything specific that the child hoped their parents might consider.
- The purpose is to support parents to resolve their disputes with their child’s needs and interests clearly at the heart of things : considering the parenting issues through their child’s eyes, and making decisions from a developmental point of view.
- Children are never asked to make decisions. Decision making, and dispute resolution – practical and emotional – remains the responsibility of the parents.
- Our research shows many benefits to children and parents of this way of working. Your mediation and counselling service will be able to tell you more, and help you determine if this is may be a helpful path for you all, now.
Different services and practitioners have slightly different approaches to this work. Each will provide you with information on how they go about Child Inclusive Mediation and Counselling.