The emotional stress of divorce is felt through any family, especially to the youngest and most sensitive members. The children. The child inclusive mediation method was developed in response to research about the effect parental conflict during separation has on children. The primary goal of this method, according to Professor Lawrie Moloney, is to re-establish and maintain a secure emotional base for children post separation (Moloney 2012:3)
What’s the child inclusive mediation method?
Dr Jennifer McIntosh, a clinical child psychologist, describes some of the fundamental elements of the CI process as follows (McIntosh 2007:5):
- The session with the children must be supportive and appropriate as to the dispute and separation
- Decision making shouldn’t be a burden the children carry
- A therapeutic element is needed to help children with coping, providing information and validating their experiences
- Assisting parents to hear and reflect upon the children’s experiences to better understand the children’s needs
Child inclusive mediation “ups the ante” by directly involving the children. This way the parents truly understand how their child feels and what they want. Expert advice is still considered in the proceedings as they’d meet with the children to gauge their state of mind during the separation.
The ultimate goal of any mediation involving young people is to reduce conflict and to prohibit agendas or “tactics” one parent may use over another to gain primary custody.
Does this method work?
In a 2006 study, 79% of the combined child-inclusive and child-focused mediation participants reported flattening out of their conflict. Other statistics from the study showed:
- 82% of CI cases felt this method had improved the way their dispute was handled
- 61% of children reported better outcomes for the family
In mediation, a clichéd image is the mother having primary custody awarded to her. However, there is an interesting result from the 2006 study. There was less acrimony, greater fulfilment with resolutions and a stronger sense of agreement among fathers in the year after the mediation (McIntosh and Long 2006:122). Fathers also had a greater perception of fairness from the child inclusive process (McIntosh and Long 2006:124)
For mothers there was a greater sense of preservation in the bond with their children. The benefits for the children included a perceived “closeness” with their father’s. They also reported being happier with agreements 1 year after the mediation (McIntosh and Long 2006:122).