Talking directly with children and young people online is a relatively new practice for mediators. It is incredibly important to give children a voice during the mediation process and doing so through remote technologies is another great way to be inclusive.
With the permission of both parents, we can offer an invitation to a child to meet with one of our trained family mediators. It is then for the child to decide if they would like to take up this opportunity and he /she should not in any way feel compelled to do so. It may be that, upon receiving an invitation to mediate, the child would prefer to have a telephone conversation prior to meeting one of our mediators online.
We advise that, prior to mediation, children are referred to online profile of their mediator so that they can become more familiar. As part of the process, it is also normal for our family mediators to have taken information from their parents about their child(ren), such as what school they attend, any hobbies they have, likes and dislikes so that they may better engage with them.
Parents should feel reassured that before our mediators invite any child to meet, they will discuss and agree with them both within a joint mediation session as to how appropriate it is or might be to do so through an online connection, whether there are other professionals or agencies already involved who may be talking with any child/ren and how any meeting will take place and the arrangements that will apply.
Parents will need to sign an additional parental agreement and consent form relating to child inclusive mediation arrangements and that agreement, if necessary, will also include arrangements for any online remote mediation meetings.
Prior to any mediation meeting with a child, your chosen family mediator will make both parents aware of the fact that any conversation conducted with their child(ren) is private. The private nature of the meeting should also be explained to the child(ren).
I will also explain to the child(ren) that it is their opportunity to say what they think will be most important for their parents to know and consider in discussing how the family will live in the future and that although I can pass that information on, their parents will be making the decisions and they are not being asked or expected or presume that any decision making is theirs to make. The child(ren) will also be informed by me that if they don’t want any information passed on to their parents, that is their choice save that I have a duty to pass on information to the relevant authorities if I were to consider that any child is at potential risk of harm.
We, as Mediators are always mindful that children and young people may well be under some pressure (or feel that they are under pressure) from their parents and may want to do what they think will please an individual parent. Your Mediator can work with the whole family to address these types of issues.
We must not underestimate the effect that the pandemic and relationship breakdowns have on children. And children and young people will have their own fears and anxieties. And although they may not be obvious to the parents and the parents are doing their best to shield and reassure children, these will often be in place and something that needs to be addressed.
Now, talking directly with children and young people online is relatively a new means of practise for mediators. I (Michelle Bettell) personally have been talking with children as part of the mediation process for some years, and I would always promote that with families. I think it is important that the children be given the opportunity to have a voice.
Now, I would usually meet with children face-to-face, either at my offices or at an alternative venue that the child may choose, such as their school or coffee shop, for example. However, moving forward, there is little doubt that as users of technology, children and young people actually probably will prefer to meet mediators online. Now, many would already be using these technologies for keeping in touch with friends and will also be getting used to schooling by remote technology too. Attending at a solicitor’s or a mediator’s office is often daunting for an adult. And so you can imagine how daunting this would be for a child.
Now, that anxiety, in fact, may be addressed by suggesting that we have an online remote mediation meeting with the child as this could be in the comfort of their own bedroom or another venue, if they would wish. Now, we would meet with the child independent of the parents. The parents would not be present as the meeting with the child is actually their meeting and talking with them as part of the separation process gives them a voice. However, it is not always appropriate in every single matter for the children to be spoken to. And it is important that parents are aware and given plenty of information regarding the processes so that they are able to make informed decisions about what they feel will help the family as a whole to work through difficult and challenging times.
With the permission of both parents, I can offer an invitation to a child to meet with me. It is then for the child to decide if they would like to take up that opportunity. The child shouldn’t in any way feel compelled to meet with me. And it may be that upon receiving my invitation, the child might prefer, in the first instance, to have a telephone conversation with me before meeting with me either face-to-face or online. They can also be referred to my online profile, for example, so they can see what I look like and become a bit more familiar with me. I would also have taken information from the parents about the child. So, what school the child goes to, any hobbies they have, likes and dislikes so that when I speak with the child, I can fully engage with them to gain their confidence and trust, which is important.
Now, parents should feel reassured that before I invite any child to meet with me, I will spend considerable amounts of time with both of the parents to discuss and agree with them how best to arrange that meeting and whether it is appropriate in the first instance, but also how we might arrange that through an online connection. It’s also important for me to explore with the parents as to whether any other professionals or agencies are already involved or maybe talking with the child and how any meetings and arrangements that I might have with the child might work with those who are alongside them.
Now, I will expect parents to be signing an additional parental agreement and consent form. And this is in addition to the agreement to mediate document which they would already have signed with me. That will relate to child-inclusive mediation arrangements and that agreement, if necessary, will also include arrangements for any online meetings.
I would have already spoken with both parents regards to the fact that any conversation I have with the child is private. And I explain that to the child when I initially meet with them as well. I will explain to the child that this is their opportunity to say what they think will be most important for their parents to know and consider when we are having discussions about how the family will live in the future. I will explain to the child that although I will pass on any information that they wish for me to, it will be the parents that’ll be making the decisions, and therefore the child should not feel pressured that they will be making any decisions themselves.
Ultimately, that is the parent’s decision to make. Likewise, the child will be informed by me if there is any information they don’t want me to pass on to the parents, and that’s their choice. The only information that I have to pass on to any relevant authority is if I become aware of any risk to any child, and I have a duty to ensure safety. But other than that, I will only relate to the parents that which the child wants me to.
Now, we as mediators are always mindful that children and young people may well be under some pressure or field. They’re under some pressure from their parents, and they want to do what they think will please an individual parent. Now, I speak with parents a lot about that. And also I will be working with the whole family to address these types of issues. And so when there are any issues in relation to children, the arrangements for them, where they should be living, what time they should be spending with each parent, family members. I feel that mediation is the preferable way of discussing those arrangements so that parents can maintain the control of those.
To speak to one of our family mediator or to arrange an initial mediation consultation, please contact Michelle Bettell or a member of our family team on 01202 983999. Alternatively, you can enquire using the form below.
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