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Giving a Voice to the Children

This article describes the benefits of providing a means for the children to have their say when their parents separate and divorce.

Sadly, when couples split up they are often too immersed in their own grief to consider the feelings of their children or do not understand that children are also fully fledged people entitled to know what is happening, to be heard and to be consulted.

Using the framework of Family Mediation parents can ask the mediator to talk with the children, which often helps the adults to reach better decisions concerning their arrangements for their children. Such mediators need to be specially trained to consult direct with children.

Whilst suffering the effects of divorce and separation the adults at least have the ability to make choices. They can choose where to live and with whom. Children do not have that advantage. They are economically dependant, inexperienced in life and have not fully developed their vocabulary so can find it more difficult to express what they are feeling.

The adults often hand over control to their lawyers who are even more remote from the children than are the parents and the children are rarely heard within the legal context.

Happily there is a better alternative namely Family Mediation. This is a private way in which an independent person, known as a Mediator, helps separating or divorcing couples learn to communicate better and reach solutions to some or all of their issues relating to separation, divorce, finances, property or children.

Parents can ask the mediator to talk with the children, which often helps the adults to reach better decisions concerning their arrangements for their children.

The purpose of meeting the children (at which the parents are not present) is to find out, if possible, their wishes and feelings. The meeting is confidential. The parents must have previously agreed that nothing said in that private meeting will be disclosed to the parents unless the children have agreed to that happening. Usually the children do agree.

The parents also agree not to school the children beforehand about what to say in the mediation or to ask them about what they have said to the mediator.

In most cases children report how pleased they are to be consulted, to have their say and to feel they matter. Sometimes they have nothing to say but are pleased to have been given the opportunity to do so. Many say they have not been asked their views before.

The whole process is very beneficial in teaching the individuals concerned to work out their problems as a family so everyone is included.

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