The voice of a child can be a powerful force in Mediation
8th November 2018 by Kenneth Clarke
One of the joys of my job is child consultation. We see many children throughout the year at the request of their parents and the experience for both children and parents is empowering and enlightening.
This is because children will often express feelings, concerns and fears that they have not been able to share with their parents, either because they fear a backlash, or simply because they do not want to hurt either parent.
When parents hear the feedback from a child consultation it can come as a revelation. “I never knew they were worried about that”, or “I didn’t know that’s how they were feeling” are common responses.
The power of the child’s voice in mediation cannot be underestimated. It can represent a turning point in their parent’s conflict, the voice of reason in hostile deadlock and impasse created by antipathy towards the other parent rather than on what is best for the child.
Recently a 14-year-old girl opened her heart out in a child consultation. She felt she was taking the brunt of her mother’s anger at dad having left the marriage. She was struggling to cope and having counselling (as was the mother)
The feedback made uncomfortable hearing for mum. Dad did not try and use the feedback to wrestle full care from mum. In fact, he was desperate for mum to work through her issues with her daughter. I gave clear guidelines to mum to try and help her empathise and connect with her daughter’s feelings, rather than see her comments as criticism and rejection.
Unfortunately, mum’s own issues prevented her from focusing on her daughters needs and a few days after the feedback session we received a call from her daughter. Mum had expressed disappointment and said her daughter had let the family down.
However, to mum’s credit, she recognises that she has to find a way to manage her emotions better and re-build bridges with her daughter. So I have arranged a face to face meeting with me, mum and daughter. Strict rules will be enforced by the mediator. Mum will listen and not interrupt, then I will offer strategies and suggestions to help mum and daughter work together to re-engage with each other and restore harmony.
I cant yet tell you the result, however we achieve high levels of success in the majority of our children disputes, so I have high hopes this will be one of them.
For further information on our Family Mediation services please click here.