A message for parents:
Sometimes parents ask me if I can meet with their children as part of their mediation process. If you think that you might want your child/children to have a voice in your mediation process then I would first undertake some detailed preparation work with you both. The age and maturity of your child/children will be an important factor in whether it is appropriate for them to meet with me. Meeting children as part of a mediation process should not happen if it is likely to increase stress for them or if there is a risk that they might feel that they have the responsibility to decide outcomes.
Meeting with children can help them to understand the changes that are happening in their family and also to reassure them that they are being listened to and understood by both of their parents. It can help to ease communication and encourage children to talk about their feelings. Anything children say to me will remain confidential unless they tell me that they would like me to pass on all of some of what they have said.
Below is an example of a message I might communicate to children who are considering coming to see me in order to have a voice in their mum’s and dad’s mediation process:
Hi, I’m Maura. I am a family mediator and for many years I have been helping mums and dads who have separated to talk together and make joint plans about how to organise life for their children after their separation.
When parents separate it can feel incredibly tough. It is important to remember that families change but they do not end; it will be different from how it was before but it is still your family and you should feel proud of it. It is normal to feel scared or angry. It can take quite a long time for things to start to feel better again but eventually you will. There are lots of things you can do to help yourself to cope better and to feel stronger. Your mum and dad can help you to work out what these things are.There are also some really good books with tips and advice about what you can do. I can tell mums and dads about books and websites that might be helpful for children to look at.
As a mediator I sometimes meet with children but I only do this if parents agree that it is a good step. This often depends upon how old children are. I never ask children to choose between their parents or put them in the middle. A mediator can listen to your thoughts and feelings about your parents’ separation and can keep what you say confidential. If you give me your permission I can pass on to your parents what you want them to know. Sometimes, talking to a mediator can help children to feel better.
It is your parents’ job to make a plan that they think is best for their you and for your whole family. That plan will be different from another family’s plan as every family and every person in it is different. The parents that I work with ask for support so that they can make good decisions. Sometimes mums and dads find it hard to agree what is best for their children after their separation and so they come to see me to search for a solution which they can both agree upon.
Here are some really important things to remember:
– Your parents still love you very much;
– You can’t get your parents back together;
– your parents’ separation is not your fault;
– some of the hardest changes usually work out eventually;
– there are some important things you can do to help you to cope better;
– families change but they do not end;
– some things can feel much better after separation;
– try not to worry about sorting things out as it your parents’ job to do that;
– you should never be asked to choose between your parents;
Talking can help so remember to ask questions. Your mum and dad will be able to give you lots of reassurance. There may be other people in your family or friends that you are close to and you could talk to them. If you feel that you need extra help then sometimes talking to a counsellor can be a really positive thing to do. Your mum and dad would be able to organise that if they felt it would help you.
Remember that it can take time for things to start feeling alright again but one day they will. You might still miss your old life sometimes but you will also be able to find positive things about your new life.
If you think that you would like your child/children to have a voice in your mediation process then please contact me to discuss this option further.