What Works Best for Children

Sometimes children take the changes harder than their parents, sometimes easier. There are no easy guidelines for parents. Patience, generosity and humour will help but are hit-and-miss virtues. Time seems to work best. Research shows that the way that parents talk to children about the break-up and the extent to which they involve them in decisions made during and after the divorce can affect how they adjust.

Most children and young people say that they still want to see both parents after the divorce. Children who kept in contact with both parents after the divorce or separation have fewer adjustment problems than those children who lose contact with the parent without everyday care.

Some tips about what children need

  • To be told what’s happening and how their lives will change
  • To know that it is not their fault
  • To know that it’s OK to feel angry and sad
  • To know that it’s fine to talk and ask questions
  • To be listened to
  • To know that their parents understand how they feel and still love them
  • To feel good about loving both parents
  • To know that it’s all right to have different family rules in different houses

Divorce and separation is difficult for everyone and you might feel that you’re protecting your child by keeping things from them; however children often feel powerless and confused if they don’t know what’s happening. You can help them by telling them in a way that’s easy for them to understand; they don’t need to know all of the details but they do need to know about the things that will affect them.

Children can usually adapt to new living arrangements and seeing their parents at different times, as long as they know what is happening. For younger children, it can be helpful to keep a chart at each house so that they know where they are going to be and when they will next see the other parent. For older children, you may wish to include some of their wishes and feelings when making your arrangements. A child consultation session with a family mediator may assist you to do this (further information below). There may be things you have not thought of. Having said that, it is important not to put pressure on your children to make decisions which really should be made by their parents e.g. asking your child who they would like to live with.

You can use family mediation to ensure your children’s voices are heard. Once you have entered into mediation and the mediator feels it is appropriate to consult the children, the mediator can arrange to meet them. They will be offered a confidential session and told that the mediator does not report everything back to the parents unless the child agrees to this. This allows children to get things off their chest, ask questions they might not otherwise feel okay about asking and generally be reassured that things will get better. Children can say no to meeting the mediator and no pressure should be placed upon them to do so. Once the child has agreed to feeding certain information back to their parents, the mediator will meet up with parents and incorporate this into the mediation, enabling the children’s views to be taken into account before final decisions are made.

National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family.

NFM Mediators routinely encourage parents to consider inviting their children to participate directly in the mediation process. We believe that most children appreciate the opportunity to be heard directly.

Parents are assured that:

  • their children will not be asked to make choices or decisions
  • we respect their parental authority
  • children are seen only with the agreement of both parents
  • we will discuss fully with them the process and purpose of a “listening meeting” before involving children

All NFM services also routinely offer other support services for children, like child counselling.

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies


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