Taking a Child’s Voice into Account During the Mediation Process
Today, the emphasis is on taking into account a child’s voice, rights, and interests throughout the process. Child inclusive mediation , in my experience as a mediator, is a wonderful approach for ensuring that children have a voice and are heard during the mediation process . The drawbacks of child inclusive mediation appear to be when parents are hesitant to listen to what their child or children have to say, which can have a detrimental influence on the child, who will believe that no one is listening to them.
I was nominated for the family mediator of the year at the 2020 National Mediation Awards and received several books. Among them was Polly Walker’s ‘The Rock Pool SOS’. This is a brief, colourful storey about marine animals arguing in a rock pool. They end their conflict by visiting the wise old whelk,’ who delivers some calming words and assists them in resolving their conflict. I contacted the author Polly Walker, and she agreed to record herself reading her novel on YouTube. It would be fantastic if everyone could share the YouTube video and educate young people about the benefits of mediation.
My initial reaction to reading this book was that it was excellent, but how could I apply it to my current practice as a family mediator? I did not believe it would be beneficial to send to parents undergoing mediation to distribute to their children at this stage because it does not cover the child inclusive mediation process .
I then read this book to my five-year-old daughter, and about halfway through, I asked her what she would do if she had a disagreement with one of her classmates. She considered it for a bit and then added, “Do you mean if both of us desired the same toy?” I said, “How would you resolve that?” “Mummy,” she stated. I’d invite everyone to vote on it after hearing from both of us why we believe we deserve it.” I was taken aback by her statement and wondered why, if a five-year-old can comprehend the value of listening and how to resolve conflicts, why couldn’t my legal clients or mediation clients realise that there are two sides to every storey and ways forward to address the disagreement.
It struck me how mediation should be an integral part of children’s education and how they should learn from an early age how to resolve conflicts by stating their perspective calmly, listening to what the other side has to say, and then using their brains together – to solve issues creatively’. Additionally, the book emphasises that there is no harm in seeking aid if you require a helpful guide.
On February 16th, it was an anti-bullying week, and I sent my daughter to school with this book and another titled ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot, and Leech and their Troublesome Transformations!’ This book, like the previous one, is brief, colourful, and educational for children who may not be comfortable in their own skin. Again, this book is excellent for schools and for getting children to consider how other people feel and how they feel about whatever concerns they may have. The teacher provided really favourable comments, stating that it was wonderful to read the books to the children and then have an open conversation about the subject. The Rock Pool SOS also includes excellent ideas and activities for teachers and parents at the back of the book. I believe that this book should be required reading in all basic schools. I’m aware that some schools have a programme called ‘peer mediation’ that teaches children and young people how to resolve dispute humanely and peacefully, while also improving pupils’ listening skills, respect for other people’s points of view, and demonstration of empathy. This sort of mediation attempts to promote children’s learning and to equip them with the necessary life skills to deal with conflict in later life. This can occur in high school, with adult coworkers, or when facing a partner’s separation.
I spoke with my daughter’s school and they do not have a peer mediation programme in place. As a mediator and advocate for family mediation , I believe we should start with young people so they learn that there is another way to resolve disputes and do not follow in their parents’ footsteps if they are involved in a difficult separation. It is becoming more common for children to come from separated families, and I have seen firsthand the negative impact that conflicting parents have on their children’s health and wellbeing. I believe that in addition to promoting mediation and educating parents through Separated Parenting Information programmes, etc., a greater emphasis should be placed on young people to teach them a more effective way to resolve conflicts as adults.
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