Children at mediationThe breakdown of a relationship is devastating for the adults involved. Even if it’s your choice to end it, that will have been a hard decision. It’s the end of a whole way of life with all the uncertainty that brings. It’s a walking away from a past built with the person you planned to be with for life into a future where the whole landscape is different.

The reality is that, however painful, adults do cope and, more importantly, they get to make the decisions that will shape their future. The inevitable fact is that those decisions also set the future for their children. That isn’t just the immediate future. As a mediator, I see lots if clients who themselves went through their own parents’ split. I know from hearing them how raw that experience remains if that split was handled badly. A bad experience colours the way that they approach their own adulthood, relationships and parenting.

It is the rare parent in mediation who doesn’t assure me that he or she only wants what is best for the children involved. The problem however is that, however hard we try, it is extremely hard honestly to separate what we want desperately for ourselves from what our children really need. That’s where a mediator can help. It’s really useful to have a neutral third party with professional knowledge who can help broker the difficult conversations between parents and, hopefully, help them to stand back and really see what is best for their children.

However that will always be at third hand, however well done. Parental separation materially affects children. They no longer live with Mum and Dad, they may have to move, they may be worse off, they may lose a whole extended family, a pet- the list is endless.

They have their own views on what might work and their own concerns and unanswered questions. They may well have an entirely different take on what might work and on what they want than either parent. They may well have questions which they don’t feel that they can ask.

They are surely entitled to be heard on issues that affect them so vitally? As things stand, they can talk in mediation to a mediator who is trained to talk direct to children but only if their parents both agree. Sadly many parents can’t agree on that. For many there is the perfectly understandable feeling that they don’t want a third party to talk to their children. Many feel that it would be intrusive.

All that I can say is that my experience of talking to children is that they always respect the chance to be heard and that they really appreciate the opportunity. Many leave seeming noticeably lighter. They know that they are not being asked to decide but that their views are being sought so that their parents can take them into account. For them talking to either parent, no matter how close the relationship, can be impossible. We all know that speaking openly to people whom we love and don’t want to hurt can be immeasurably hard, even for adults.

So, please do think about asking your mediator if your children can have the chance to speak.

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